Title: St. Peter's Day Festival
Artist: Ra Ra Riot
Album: The Rhumb Line
I'm not exactly sure if the comparison is apt but Ra Ra Riot is my answer to The Killers. I recommend that, when you find yourself reaching for Hot Fuss, you pause and look up The Rhumb Line instead.
I found it really difficult to choose a song to feature from the band's major label debut. The lead single "Dying is Fine" is, well...fine but suffers a bit from e.e. cummings-inspired lyrics that I find silly and uninspiring. The opening track "Ghost Under Rocks" has a busy drum beat under an 80s-era groove that has the added bonus of replacing what would have been a synth cello line in 1985 with an actual cello. On the other hand, "Too Too Too Fast" puts that synth front and center, a reminder that the 80s new wave revival is in full swing and these guys are on board.
I finally settled on "St. Peter's Day Festival" because a) I think it features the most representative sound of the band and b) it's quite beautiful and a little bit heart-breaking. "St. Peter's Day Festival" is the last song written by original drummer John Pike, who tragically drowned the year before this record was released. (Pike wrote all of the songs I cite in this post.) The song makes great use of the string players who make up one-third of the sextet. The interplay between these instruments and the traditional guitar-bass combo is particularly well-designed and -executed. Like many of the band's songs, the song relies on very creative drumming, lovingly reproduced by new drummer Cameron Wisch—I'm particularly fond of the feel change at 1:52. And, of course, singer Wesley Miles has the perfect voice for cutting through this blend of instruments with its prominent mid-range. It's a really pleasant mix of sounds—a real victory for whoever called the shots in arranging the songs. One of my favorite records of 2008—I think it deserves more attention and I hope you agree.
That's it for 2008! Back tomorrow with 1969.