Ra Ra Riot
The Orchard


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
August 17th, 2010 | 47 replies | 15,336 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Everything a sophomore effort should be.

I love it when bands surprise me. For someone who thought Ra Ra Riot were like a lesser Vampire Weekend with a string section after 2008’s so-so The Rhumb Line, I was ready to push through The Orchard and let it down gently. Then I listened to it, and lo and behold, a band I had written off ends up backhanding me across the face with one of the better albums I’ve heard all year. Previous fans of the band will no doubt be delighted to hear that singer Wes Miles still sounds like Ezra Koenig, if a little more prone to falsetto, and that the band’s bouncy brand of pop-rock is still very much in evidence (just check out that ADD bass line on uber-catchy single “Boy”). But whereas The Rhumb Line was all meaty melodies and festival-ready sing-a-longs, The Orchard feels like a proper album of baroque pop – the songwriting is noticeably stronger, the band takes their time around the tunes rather than jumping headfirst into hooks, and the lovely strings of violinist Rebecca Zeller and cellist Alexandra Lawn seem far more integrated into the affairs here rather than the gimmick they at times appeared to be on their debut.

It’s a record that knows that the best way to start an album is not a rookie move like throwing out your best song or first single, but to kick things off with a track that announces a new, determined direction instead. “The Orchard” is just that song, floating along ominous string chords and a pensive bass line without a hint of drums or guitar. The focus is purely on Miles, who sounds like a markedly more assured vocalist throughout the record and never as clearly as he does on “The Orchard.” The strings at the forefront is something repeated throughout the album, from the way they add a melancholy note to the otherwise upbeat “Boy” to the way they arch and dip across melodies, putting their indelible stamp on songs like “Do You Remember” and “Kansai.” The fact that Zeller and Lawn are the centerpiece of songs rather than a touch of color here or a flourish there makes The Orchard everything The Rhumb Line hinted at but never accomplished: the sound of a complete and full band, utilizing an array of sound and talents in a more organic way than many of their peers.

Not to say that the rest of the band suffers in comparison. Drummer Gabriel Duquette is the unsung hero here, laying down a number of intricate beats that always propel things forward but never overwhelm. Like the National’s Bryan Devendorf or Bloc Party’s Matt Tong, Duquette has some impressive chops (check out his subtle work on “Massachusetts”), but uses them more to build a rigid rhythmic framework than show off. Everyone contributes, whether it’s consistently fantastic rhythm work, airtight melodies and subtler hooks, or Miles letting Lawn on the mic for the excellently Fleetwood Mac-ish “You And I Know.” There are a few missteps; seriously cheesy synths midway through “Foolish” mar some perfectly good dream-pop, and the sluggish “Keep It Quiet” ends the album with a whimper rather than a bang. But perhaps that’s to be expected – The Orchard is nothing if not a sharp left turn from the cheery, thumping pop of their debut, and ending it on its most plaintive note is sort of fitting. It’s also everything I wanted from a sophomore effort: sophisticated, confident, surprisingly layered, and endlessly entertaining. It’s always exciting when a band seems to get it and come into their own as a group – with The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot have finally created a distinctive identity all their own.



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user ratings (94)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2010



10326 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

300 listens in the past 4 days wut

Digging: Literature - Chorus

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2010



31087 Comments


Rudy Klapper - Obsession

Digging: Banks - Goddess

silverleaves
August 17th 2010



438 Comments


i really enjoyed their debut, definitely gonna check this out

WeepingBanana
August 17th 2010



10102 Comments


these guys were cool live. i should get this

Zizzer
August 17th 2010



915 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I heard "Keep It Quiet" and actually liked it. Your review has convinced me to just start with this album instead of checking out The Rhumb Line.

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2010



10326 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

spittin hot 4s

Enotron
August 17th 2010



7695 Comments


boy is crazy catchy

StarsAtDawn
August 17th 2010



18 Comments


great review. about halfway through and enjoying it so far. that bass line in "boy" is as A.D.D as the scott pilgrim movie! wazzah!

AggravatedYeti
August 17th 2010



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this better not suck klapper.

EVedder27
August 17th 2010



6088 Comments


this has kinda bored me so far, but I'll listen more

ebay
August 17th 2010



501 Comments


really liking this album so far, either a 3.5 or 4 for me.

Romulus
August 17th 2010



8423 Comments


do not really like this band but if this is significantly better than the debut then i'll give it a shot

Phideaux
August 17th 2010



1654 Comments


Never listened to the band before, but this review got me somewhat interested. I'll check it out.

Romulus
August 17th 2010



8423 Comments


okay the first song is already better than like anything on the last album

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2010



10326 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

not really an "exciting" record per se, mike, except maybe for boy. it just flows so much better and the songs are definitely stronger than their debut. maybe it's just a thinking man's record.... :0

Knott-
Emeritus
August 17th 2010



10195 Comments


hmmm... 3.5 i think after a first lesson. it's good, but pretty samey.

crazyblinddude
August 17th 2010



3389 Comments


Nice review. Say these guys live not too long ago. They were great and their newer songs sounded really promising. So I'll be picking this one up.

brutebeard
August 17th 2010



1655 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If it surpasses their first great release, I oughta pick it up

freedomofspeechnoway
August 17th 2010



413 Comments


Saw these guys in a friend's basement, my buddy is their manager. Good to see they're doing well.

Digging: Buckethead - Closed Attractions

indiechick9149
August 17th 2010



13 Comments


cool someone on this site actually has good taste in bands!!!



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