Picture yourself sitting in the vast, open fields of Onondaga County in upstate New York. If you were looking for the perfect soundtrack for such a setting, The Orchard by Ra Ra Riot is the ideal selection. Hailing from Syracuse (located in Onondaga County, NY), the now six-piece band has created a unique sound that matured quite noticeably from their debut release, The Rhumb Line in 2008.
Tragedy befell the band in 2007, when their drummer, John Ryan Pike passed away in a drowning accident off the New England coast. Their subsequent music had a somber, sullen attitude (whether by coincidence or by design) and it felt as if a piece of Ra Ra Riot was held back as a result. As nearly two whole years have elapsed between albums, it feels like all the reins have been taken off their sound and it’s exploded into something beautiful.
No other indie band that is as prominent as Ra Ra Riot duplicates their sound. In addition to have a distinct lead vocalist such as Wes Miles, the band goes beyond the basic bassist and guitarist. They add cellist Alex Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller to create a myriad of sounds that when put together are cohesive and strong. As Miles continues to collaborate on projects with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, (such as electronic side project, Discovery) you can hear a bit of the Vampire Weekend influence on this record. This is especially evident in the track “Massachusetts”, which sounds like numerous tracks on VW’s Contra and is even sung in a Koenig-esque manner. The band occasionally does get caught up in its own sound on this album. Tracks like “Too Dramatic” and “Shadowcasting” don’t offer the listener anything that they haven’t already heard.
The two strongest tracks on this record are “Foolish” and “Kansai”, which are each a bit more subdued than the other eight, but exemplify their strength, maturity, and pretty sound the most. “Keep It Quiet”, the album’s final track also has a laid back tone to it, as the title might suggest. Regardless of what it Is that you get out of listening to this album, there’s definitely something in it for everyone. The passionate vocals go hand-in-hand with the harmony of instruments to create an overall pleasant, enjoyable sounding album.