Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Album Review: The Rhumb Line From Ra Ra Riot

If you’re not from Upstate, NY (And by this I don’t mean Westchester County!) you probably have no idea that Syracuse has a pretty active music scene. If you’re from Upstate, you likely think that its emphasis is on the blues. And while the blues certainly has a strong base in Syracuse—punk and indie music also hold great sway. Take for example Ra Ra Riot, who have recently released The Rhumb Line, their full-length debut, on Barsuk Records. This fierce band uses both a cello and a violin as centerpieces of their sound. But they’re no chamber-pop outfit. They rock. The use of the strings works great with their sound. Often when these instruments are utilized in rock music they’re either used to play the role of a lead soloist or to create saccharin string lines. Ra Ra Riot integrates the cello and violin into the overall fabric and texture of their music.

The band has received comparisons to Arcade Fire. While this is fair, what is great about Ra Ra Riot is that they’ve really developed their own sound and style in a very short period of time. They only came together in 2006. And during this time, one of the founding members passed away.

Lyrically the band writes some wonderful stuff. Take the chorus of the opening track, “Ghost Under Rocks.” “Here you are breathing life into / Ghosts under rocks like notes found / In pocket coats of your fathers / lost and forgotten.” Beautiful. Poetic. And together the lyrics and the music produce what I keep describing to myself as joyous melancholy. Yeah, I don’t totally know what joyous melancholy means. All I know is this is how I can describe the way the music makes me feel—and I like it. Or perhaps this sound and the feeling it creates is connected to the rhumb line—a path of constant bearing.

Check them out playing "Ghosts Under Rocks" on Conan O'Brien

Or stream more songs here.


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