Let’s not even try to play the game of “heard it where first.” Sure, we covered these guys at CMJ, made them a preliminary pick for SXSW, but seeing them live last night (April 17) in New York City, supporting Art Brut, sealed the deal: Ra Ra Riot is one of the best young bands we’ve heard in a really long time, and little SPIN.com HQ has been awash in their tunes for several weeks now.
On their snappier numbers, like “Each Year” (DOWNLOAD MP3), they possess a sunny, twee disposition, warmed over by swaths of cello and violin and propelled by a pleasingly anxious rhythm section. But we prefer the moments when singer Wesley Miles simply coos and croons, as on the syrupy come-on, “Can You Tell,” and on “Ghost Under Rocks,” the set’s nadir, and their debut EP’s as well. Hesitantly surging forth on a crest of oh-oh-ooohs, coaxed out by Miles, cellist Alexandra Lawn, and drummer John Pike, the tune climaxes on a line about a “soaking wet dream.” It’s a song you’ll undoubtedly listen to about 37 times during the first 24 hours the EP is in your possession, chills invariably coursing up your spine as the first cello swells stumble out of the silence.
And thankfully, Ra Ra Riot seem immune to the sort of stoicism that accompanies much of today’s best drama rock. In person, every moment is imbued with urgency and emotion, whether it’s with deep gazes on the passionate “Ghost” or awkward, silly, and giddy dance moves on the cutesy drama-club gem, “Anthony.” PETER GASTON
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