Ra Ra Riot has been on the scene for a full decade now, but their most recent album, Need Your Light, still manages to be refreshing and offers something unique from their past records. The indie rock band from Syracuse features Wes Miles (vocalist), Milo Bonacci (guitarist), Rebecca Zeller (violinist), and Kenny Bernard (drummer).
While Ra Ra Riot traditionally had a distinct indie sound, their 2013 album Beta Love moved them in a more mainstream pop direction by introducing synth-electronic elements into their music, to the dismay of some of their fans. While Need Your Light continues with this trend, it manages to do so in a more seamless way, stringing together a series of danceable tunes that gives Ra Ra Riot plenty of fun live material for their tour this spring. Fans who were hoping that Need Your Light would incorporate elements from their earlier sound will probably be disappointed. However, those who embraced Ra Ra Riot’s new direction will find that Need Your Light refines and improves upon the pop vibe that they introduced in Beta Love. The album cover’s light pastel colors and picture of legs diving into a swimming pool definitely reflects the laid-back, summery vibe present throughout the record.
The first track on the album, “Water,” is one of the best songs on the record in addition to being a collaboration with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij. The catchy percussive beat and uplifting tone on “Water” feels reminiscent of Vampire Weekend’s hits “Unbelievers” and “A-Punk” in the best way possible. The record continues with “Absolutely,” a light, feel-good tune that is sure to be a crowd pleaser during Ra Ra Riot’s tour. The album goes on to explore the ups and downs of love, heartbreak, and fearlessness with a lighthearted, optimistic tone. In “Bad Times,” Miles belts out “Yesterday was tough / I was having some bad times / Love will pick me up again.” Although most of the album remains on a distinctly superficial level lyrically, it’s still a damn good time. It’s virtually impossible not to clap and dance along to “Every Time I’m Ready To Hug,” one of the catchiest tunes on the record. The final track, “Suckers,” seamlessly incorporates synth beats under Miles’ distinctive high voice in an MGMT-esque way, where he belts “I wanna know that love can change us.” Ultimately, “Need Your Light” is worth blasting during your next pick-me-up dance party.
Voice’s Choices: “Water” and “Every Time I’m Ready to Hug”