Release Date: Jan 22, 2013
Record label: Arts & Crafts
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Ra Ra Riot's third studio album, 2013's Beta Love, finds the Syracuse outfit delivering an electronic, keyboard-heavy effort that still retains much of the melodic songcraft and orchestral influence that marked their previous work. Having parted ways with cellist Alexandra Lawn in 2012, Ra Ra Riot were surely at a creative crossroads during the recording of Beta Love. However, the remaining bandmembers (vocalist Wes Miles, violinist Rebecca Zeller, guitarist Milo Bonacci, and bassist Mathieu Santos) did not replace Lawn and instead traveled to the warmer climes of Missouri to work with producer/engineer Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Modest Mouse) and a handful of guest musicians on crafting a more experimental, synthesizer-based sound.
Dutifully, I must report that the first two songs of Beta Love are not very good—they are simple and dance-y and, frankly, don’t require or deserve the repeated listens they are tracklistedly expected to receive. However, they are not like the rest of the album. The third track, “Beta Love,” and every song that comes after, work dexterously together to build a narrative about the loneliness and demanding expectations that come with romantic relationships: “When I call, I wonder/I run, yeah I run, but you follow/And when I dream, it’s not of you.” In terms of aesthetics, Beta Love breaches new territory for the band.
Ra Ra Riot play Lee’s Palace March 6 and Fort York June 8. See listings. Rating: NNN Syracuse baroque pop band Ra Ra Riot have ditched their orchestral sounds for synthesizers and big pop melodies, which is bound to throw many of their fans for a loop. Even more questionable is their decision to draw explicit inspiration from the writings of cyberpunk novelist William Gibson and futurist Ray Kurzweil, making for some truly cringe-worthy lyrics.
Producer Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Wavves,) encouraged Ra Ra Riot to loosen up on their third album, Beta Love. So they swapped instruments. They ditched e.e. Cummings. They consumed A-Ha with their Wheaties. Ra Ra Riot is leaner and meaner – just listen to Milo Bonacci’s chromatic guitar ….
Over the course of their seven-year career, Ra Ra Riot have, for better or worse, been known as the indie band with orchestral strings. It was a bit of a shock, then, when in 2010 the Antlers' Peter Silberman remixed short samples from their entire sophomore album, The Orchard, into a four-minute glitchy electronic track that by his admission sounded "pretty foreign from the source. " He was actually remarkably prescient: for their third record, Beta Love, the quintet enlisted producer Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello) to help them move away from the bittersweet violin and cello they felt had come to pigeonhole them since their first release in 2006.
Review Summary: Dance monkey dance!Clichés suck, but damn if Beta Love doesn’t qualify for the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage. Beta Love itself is sort of a cliché as it is, its music resembling the same kind of rote, brain-dead saying that is force-fed you throughout life at moments that might make you think the dystopian world of Office Space isn’t too far away. The drudgery here isn’t so much a case-of-the-Mondays as a pungent whiff of desperation, a band turning to a genre long since strip-mined to recover some intangible sense of relevance.
Ra Ra Riot’s last album, The Orchard, was a disappointment due to both a lack of innovation and a weaker set of songs than the band’s excellent debut, The Rhumb Line. This time around, changes galore are afoot. The biggest impact to the group’s sound was the loss of cellist Alexandra Lawn, who left the band in February 2012. Perhaps as a result of this departure, Ra Ra Riot has completely shifted their sound away from the string-drenched, rafter-aiming baroque music of albums one and two.
Ra Ra Riot’s Beta Love represents a pronounced departure from the string-quartet-led, chamber-friendly experimentalism of the band’s first two albums, The Rhumb Line and The Orchard; it contains few orchestral excursions, opting instead for a rather Eurobeat approach. The title track is a clip-art version of a dancehall anthem, interesting only for its paltry 20-second instrumental breakdown. More troubling, frontman Wes Miles, rightly revered for a surgical control of his upper register, has achieved a new level of fey, sounding very much like a poor man’s David Longstreth.
In 2008, the future looked bright for Ra Ra Riot. Their spritely debut, The Rhumb Line, showcased a band able to strike the perfect balance between up-tempo whimsy and expressive melancholy, sometimes within the same song. Unlike so many other indie rock outfits, their string section (a violinist and a cellist) didn't feel tacked on; they played a vital role in the band maintaining that fine emotional balance.
Ra Ra Riot’s third LP, Beta Love, is a lot like a colorful box of candy—a bright and infectious collection of songs that hooks you on first taste. While the band’s previous albums have always been thoroughly addictive, there’s something about this synth-filled sensation that put me in a junkie state. Inspired by the works of futurist author Ray Kurzweil and cyberpunk novelist William Gibson, Ra Ra Riot began drifting toward a more electronic sound for its latest album.
Petra Haden The expansive interiority of a great film score — as properly experienced, in the flickering dark — might seem like strange territory for a vocalist working unaccompanied. But then Petra Haden happens to thrive best in strange territory. “Petra Goes to the Movies” (Anti-), due ….
Ra Ra Riot aren’t the same band they were an album ago. Literally: their third LP marks the departure of founding cellist Alexandra Lawn, and with a session drummer filling in the percussive blanks, the band has stripped down its quintessential sound quite a bit. The feeling on Beta Love is of a humble indie band transforming into more of an arena-ready indie pop act.
In order to understand Beta Love, one must first understand a bit of the history of Ra Ra Riot. Since 2010’s The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot has been in a state of flux. Cellist Alexandra Lawn departed from the group in early 2012, serving as the catalyst for the transition from baroque to electro-pop. Beta Love is Ra Ra Riot’s third full-length release, and its first foray into the hitherto uncharted hinterland of synthesizers, something made excruciatingly clear as the album progresses.
On “Beta Love,” Ra Ra Riot dramatically leaves behind the churning and heartfelt violin- and cello-accented indie rock of its previous two albums in favor of a chipper take on electronic pop. It’s an almost-complete transformation: The production on the drums eliminate the spectre of human involvement, the guitars sound like they’ve been frozen and snapped off in pieces, and the falsetto on which Wes Miles relies repositions him in the band. It’s as though they’ve applied Gotye’s sonic palette, with a dollop of Of Montreal’s giddiness for good measure.
People wheel out comparisons to sharks - how they have to keep moving because, if they don’t, they die - to make things seem badass, but is it not more sad than anything else? Never being able to rest, lest you fall apart. Because why? Because the structural integrity isn’t up to snuff? Because without constant movement it’d be revealed as nothing?‘Beta Love’ is Ra Ra Riot’s third album - the first since the departure of founding member Alexandra Lawn - and it’s a shark. It gets through eleven songs in little over half an hour, partly because there’s no breathing space between any of those tracks.