By Ben Opipari
Friday, January 18, 2013
Ra Ra Riot smoothly transitions from chamber pop to dance pop on its new album, “Beta Love.” But chamber pop never was an accurate label for this band, as its music has always emphasized the beat as much as the strings.
The group is a quartet now, having replaced departing cellist Alexandra Lawn with synthesizers. And although much will be made of the new synth-pop direction, the band’s knack for melody remains strong. The synths merely bring out what the strings often hid -- danceable songs packed full of hooks, thanks to Wes Miles’s solid songwriting.
Ra Ra Riot’s percussive element used to play the foil to violin and cello. Now the drums work seamlessly with the synthesizers to strengthen the album’s rhythm. Miles also has changed his falsetto delivery. In the past, his crooning and gentle delivery complemented the strings. Now he’s more aggressive -- at times frenetic -- to keep pace with the music.
The band makes clear on opening track “Dance With Me” where it’s going. Such songs as “Binary Mind” and “Angel, Please” showcase the new sound, and the tracks “Is It Too Much” and “For Once” recall earlier work. No matter the song, however, there’s one constant: Miles’s choruses are inescapably catchy.
Ra Ra Riot’s strings once made you sway gently; “Beta Love” demands that you get up and move.