Ra Ra Riot: Need Your Light

ra ra riotRa Ra Riot
Need Your Light
(Barsuk Records)

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As a group, Ra Ra Riot haven’t been afraid to experiment with their sound since their string-augmented indie pop. On their fourth LP, the band still has just as much energy as they had a decade ago. Now the orchestration has been more subdued and more synth has been turned up, while Mathieu Santos tends to bellow out nearly every note without giving himself a break. This is a decent metaphor for how Need Your Light strikes me: while I should be impressed by a band stretching themselves, it all comes across as noisy and unnecessary.
Former Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij is a notable contributor to two tracks on Need Your Light, and his presence is a clever influence on this electronic direction. Opening track “Water” features fascinating percussion, and the falsetto vocals evoke a longing for freedom. While the song sounds fun, the imagery of taking off clothes to jump into water are a bit cliché. The other Batmanglij-produced track, “I Need Your Light,” is a stampeding track of desire, swinging between gentle observations (“Left your comb/And I still got your toothbrush”) and desperate declarations (“I can’t see nothing without your light”).
Besides these two highlights, there are few standouts on the rest of the album. “Foreign Lovers” is a strangely upbeat take on being habitually cheated on, while the chorus of “Call Me Out” is suffused in a strange, ’80s vibe that doesn’t fit well with the rest of the song. Perhaps if the songs didn’t sound as though they were trying to be as loud as possible, they would be more satisfying, but to my ear, they’re just a bit disappointing.
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