Album review: ‘Beta Love’ by Ra Ra Riot
- for fans of
- Cut Copy, Vampire Weekend, and Architecture in Helsinki
- singles to download
- ‘Angel, Please,’ ‘Beta Love,’ ‘When I Dream’
New York indie pop band Ra Ra Riot has finally graced us with a follow-up to 2010’s sunny and infectious album “The Orchard.” Known mainly for upbeat single “Boy,” the darling of TV commercials everywhere, Ra Ra Riot had by 2010 staked its claim as unique in the vast expanse of tepid hipster pop with full string sections, rip-roaring beats and the youthful-yet-melodic vocals of lead singer Wes Miles.
New release “Beta Love” retains the catchiness of the band’s previous releases, but old fans may be a bit taken aback—new ’80s-inspired synth begins to overtake Ra Ra Riot’s signature string flourishes right from first track “Dance With Me.” From there, it is clear that “Beta Love” is a new turn for the Syracuse rockers—the same vigor, just a different manifestation. Drum machines and auto-tune replace the crashing symbols and quirky pianos of “The Orchard.” Sometimes the mechanical and almost bare-bones new techno influences work, highlighting Miles’ voice on “Angel, Please” and the sheer energy of titular track “Beta Love.” Indeed, there’s something deliciously irreverent about the whole affair, but largely, individual songs fail to leave lasting impressions apart from the general album. “When I Dream,” a restrained violin-and-vocals track, is excellent and a great showcase for Miles, but it only serves to remind fans of what we might have had.
This is not to say that “Beta Love” isn’t fun to listen to or doesn’t contain any catchy songs; it’s that Ra Ra Riot has largely lost what made me and so many others fall in love with them in the first place: its originality. This album could just as easily have been released by a band like Architecture in Helsinki, and no one would have been surprised. To sum up: if this were Ra Ra Riot’s debut offering, it would’ve certainly been lost in the indie abyss. But as a progression