After three years, New York-based band Ra Ra Riot is back with “Beta Love.” Unfortunately, there is a constant reminder the band is going through a little bit of a genre identity crisis. This is partly because of the departure of cellist Alexandra Lawn last February. Instead of resting on their musical morals, Ra Ra Riot decided to reinvent their sound entirely and close the door on their baroque pop roots. Lawn’s absence provides her former cohorts an opportunity to test the waters of electro-pop. This explains why it sounds like a love album made for a broken-hearted astronaut floating in the abyss of space.
What’s a band to do with one violin? Use more synthesizers but have rare moments for violinist Rebecca Zeller to remind listeners of the band’s previous compositions, such as 2008’s “The Rhumb Line” and 2010’s “The Orchard”. She is featured on “When I Dream,” “That Much,” “Angel, Please” and “It Is Too Much.” The songs are reminiscent of Ra Ra Riot’s previous orchestra infused sound before their refocus.
The first track, “Dance with Me,” is an upbeat ode to a romantic interest as lead singer Wes Miles emphatically repeats “I wanna be your toy.” The sound is a little chaotic and sets the standard for the rest of the album.
Another gem is “What I Do.” Fans of the band Hot Chip will find this track to be a quick favorite. The song features a break-off from the bass-driven intro into a melodic serenade by Miles that is backed up by a series of witty piano chords.
The album’s title track is the epitome of Ra Ra Riot’s sound condensed into one song. The lyric, “I might be a prototype, but we’re both real inside. Would you take me up this time?” gives hope to those in the continuous pursuit of love.
“Beta Love” is worth a close listen. Do not be disappointed by the evidence that they are not the band they use to be. It’s a strong effort to feel the void of Lawn. The synthesizers are valiant effort, but the entire album leaves more to be desired.
Suggested tracks: “Beta Love,” “What I Do” and “Dance with Me”
Released: Jan. 22, 2013
Record Company: Barsuk Records