It’s difficult to say that Ra Ra Riot have matured in the years since their critically-acclaimed release The Rhumb Line. Difficult, only because that record was already so damned mature. With their latest release, The Orchard, the group has refined their unique blend of twee chamber-pop. The songs are stronger, and laden with hooks that would find themselves at home on top 40 radio; that is, if top 40 radio wasn’t a wasteland of pre-packaged pop-tarts and neo-pseudo-thugs.
But that’s not the case. The group instead spent the better part of the last two years touring relentlessly, leaving in its wake scores of fans. The time spent on the road has clearly had a positive effect. The dynamics on The Orchard are more nuanced than on previous records. The songs have a space to them that gives the listener a sense of being enveloped by the sound.
The record opens quietly — almost ominously — with the title track. Cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller are given space to be the foundation for vocalist Wes Miles to build upon. The trance is broken by the one-two punch of “Boy” and “Too Dramatic.” The former taking the propulsive qualities of “Too Too Too Fast” to an entirely new level. From there, the record sways between the joyful (“Shadowcasting”) and the mildly remorseful (“You and I Know”).
The strongest moment is difficult to pin down, as the record is concise — clocking in at just under 40 minutes. The band wastes no time and there is nary a “filler” track to be found — and based on the Ra Ra Riot’s output to date, it’s questionable whether they’re capable of recording any.(Barsuk Records 2010)