This Ra Ra Riot article was written by Jessica Otterwell, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Ben Kendall.
Ra Ra Riot’s latest offering, ‘Need Your Light’, begins in a dreamy-haze, as if waking from some substance-induced slumber. The description of a dreamy-haze should not be confused with the heavily weighted label ‘dream-pop’ – that is often attributed to blander more saccharine offerings. Opener ‘Water’ is the perfect way to usher in a hot spring day and to that, that end. A February release date could be seen as a little previous, but the New York based indie outfit offer hope of light around the corner.
‘Need Your Light’ is certainly more mainstream than their previous offerings, as the change of direction from indie band with strings, to a more synth-heavy direction – as witnessed on 2013’s ‘Beta Love’ charges forward.
Indeed, the 1980’s synth and beat heavy production owes more than a small debt to radio friendly hip-hop, and ‘Water’ involves a sample that is sure to make Neneh Cherry proud. “Don’t punish me, for what I feel,” pleads lead singer, Wes Miles, and you believe he means it. This is music to discover things, as though the band want to make their mistakes without fear of repercussion – it’s certainly a heady mix.
‘Absolutely’ and ‘Foreign Lovers’ have instant airplay written all over them – with their danceable energy and ear worm hooks that are difficult to shake. Indeed, the latter has already been featured in several advertising campaigns within the UK.
‘Need Your Light’ spews forth with a wide range of influences and directions, so much so that at times, as a listener, you’re not quite sure where it will go next, which almost always makes for an exciting and refreshing listen. Wes Miles’ disco-tinged falsetto is sprinkled liberally on all tracks, but really comes into its own on the title track. The song begins to almost herald a change in pace for the album, before a chorus that thumps and bends with Mathieu Santos’ funky bass lines, and pops with Kenny Bernard’s drums.
‘Need Your Light’ is by no means an album without fault, and there are times during the second half of the album that the relentless reliance on a retro sound grates slightly – making tracks such as ‘Instant Breakup’ and album closer ‘Suckers’ feel worn and dated, as though the band re-hashed everything that has gone before. If you had to reference some modern references for ‘Need Your Light’, then you could do worse than to cast a glance in Passion Pit’s direction. However, there are times when Ra Ra Riot appear to drift into the style of a Years & Years cover band, without Olly Alexander’s vocal range.
What is very refreshing about Ra Ra Riot is their ability to evolve and shape their sound with the adaptability of a chameleon on a rainforest leaf. From their inception and their debut album, 2008’s ‘The Rhumb Line’, they’ve managed to mould, shift and change within the musical landscape. When a band can do that, it’s pretty intriguing to see where they’ll go next.
‘Need Your Light’ is out now via Barsuk Records.