Ra Ra Riot spent more than half a decade making some fantastic dreamy indie pop, loaded with lush strings and lyrics about that universal theme of unrequited love. With collaborators like Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) and Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend), how could they fail? Albums like The Rhumb Line and The Orchard were twee treasures in an era where too many artists are hesitant to get too in touch with their feelings or – God forbid – look like they’re actually having fun!
That’s why it was such a surprise to find out they were changing their sound. This year’s Beta Love is a bold step away from a genre Ra Ra Riot had almost perfected, replacing the strings with synthesizers and using the studio as an instrument.
Any fears that technology would take away from the band’s heart-on-its-sleeve style were quickly quashed with songs like “Angel, Please” and “When I Dream.” The biggest difference this time around might be the band’s new influences, ranging from their chamber pop contemporaries to soul icons like Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Ra Ra Riot may be getting a bit funkier, but the songs are still just as honest, thoughtful, and straight from the heart as they ever were.
See Ra Ra Riot get synthy with it right before their fellow 1980s-nostalgists Fitz and the Tantrums at LouFest next month. Check out their new sound with their latest album, Beta Love.