by Amy Atkins
On Aug. 18, Syracuse, New York-based Ra Ra Riot released their debut LP, The Rhumb Line, on Barsuk. Any album with a bunchy little bass line followed a scant few measures later by plucky violin (strings can be so damn effective), some backing "oooh-oooh-ooohs," marching snare and a voice like Wesley Miles'--high and straining but not strained--has my full attention. Ra Ra Riot, for as young a band as it is--they've only been together since 2006ish--has suffered some serious setbacks, including the death of drummer and band co-founder John Pike (who is credited with writing a large portion of the band's music) and Rhumb Line has a joyous melancholy to it.
Quick-paced "St. Peter's Day Festival" rocks a happy little beat; "Winter '05" brings it down a notch; "Dying Is Fine" borrows lyrics from e.e. cummings, which sets its mood; "Too Too Too Fast," one of the last tracks on the CD, is enchantingly different, nu wave keyboards in the place of the heretofore melodic strings. The Rhumb Line is a beaut and discovering it is like the chocolate at the bottom of a Drumstick: a sweet little surprise.