Ra Ra Riot Beta Love

Ra Ra RiotBeta Love
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. Their underrated 2010 follow-up, the Orchard, was a mature step forward, but went largely ignored by critics. Perhaps it's desperation, then, that led Ra Ra Riot to make Beta Love? Either way, the band's decision to eschew their trademark orchestration in favour of a more synth-driven sound was, sadly, a mistake. Like a Passion Pit record without the ingenuity, Beta Love goes for broke on the dance floor, but in their hurry to get there, Ra Ra Riot bypass both the head and the heart. Opening trio of songs "Dance With Me," "Binary Mind" and the album's title track provide plenty of energy, but they feel hollow, demonstrating none of the sophistication or emotion that provided the pop highlights of their earlier catalogue (including Wes Miles' excellent Discovery album with Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij). The rest of Beta Love slows things down, but sappy synth ballads are no replacement for tracks like the Orchard's stunning intro or album closer "Keep It Quiet." In the band's sudden synth-y direction, their violinist does suddenly feel tacked on, but it's not her fault; she's been pushed to the sidelines as Ra Ra Riot struggle to find a new sound they didn't really need. (Arts & Crafts)