Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard

Photo: Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard
Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard

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As a band known for their intricate string work and lulling melodies, Ra Ra Riot doesn't disappoint with The Orchard. The album focuses on a juxtaposition of instruments, pushing the group's classical side by filling songs with orchestral swells yet playing up their rock-band status with an impressive variety of drum lines. Produced by Death Cab's Chris Walla and Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij, The Orchard showcases a more poised Ra Ra Riot. The sextet is still rhapsodizing about the rocky roads of romance but does it in a controlled and fearless manner.

The opener, "The Orchard," is a slow-paced symphony with glorious lyrics that rival the intensity of their previous hit, "Ghost Under Rocks." Lead singer Wes Miles conveys an emotional maturity that reflects back on the band's new-found confidence in their music. This continues throughout the rest of the tracks, from the frenzied and energetic "Boy" to "Too Dramatic," a highlight on the album due to its simple yet loaded lyrics and furious strains of violin.

Wes Miles steps aside on "You and I Know," allowing the spotlight to shine on cellist Alexandra Lawn, whose bluesy vocals combined with the keyboard-heavy accompaniment give off a Fleetwood Mac feel.

Unfortunately, many of the tracks lack the immediate intrigue found in their debut. The Rhumb Line displayed a refreshing inconsistency between songs that delighted listeners as they wondered what might come next. But The Orchard, despite the elaborate accompaniments, repeats similar styles and offers no such twists and turns. It is almost all hook-free and as a result, most songs will not instantly catch your attention. They test listeners' patience by slowly building up momentum, adding layer after layer of detailed instrumentals before achieving perfection. It is an album that requires multiple listens - only then will you truly appreciate its genius.

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