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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Sun god crazy: Ra Ra Riot

Sun god crazy: Ra Ra Riot

Ra Ra Riot are a whirlwind of infectious riffs hiding behind strings and melodies that seem to transcend space. Whether they are performing in the cramped basement of The Middle East in Cambridge or rocking the outside pavilion at Upstate NY’s Moe.Down, their sound aggressively engulfs the crowd, and because it is so pervasive, you almost feel a part of the magic. But don’t get confused; by the end of the concert you’ll realize you had nothing to do with it. It’s Ra Ra Riot’s show.

The buzz about Riot’s stage presence coupled with the intensified interest within the music community has elevated their work to a preternatural standard. Up-and-coming artists like RAC and Andrew Maury have remixed Riot’s music. Even after the death of drummer John Pike after a gig last June, Syracuse-based Ra Ra Riot has not missed a beat. There have been whispers within the music industry of Riot being a less-dense Arcade Fire. And, I might add, a more accessible one.

Having seen Ra Ra Riot several times, I had their EP under the microscope. The EP begins with ‘Each Year,’ a catchy song with a persistent tempo. The chorus continues to hit the accelerator with its Minus The Bear-esque riff. Meanwhile, singer Wesley Miles casually wonders “and if you think you might/yes but if it’s not so bright/but if you’re a part of my whole life . . .”

Later in the album is “Dying Is Fine,” arguably the most relaxed analysis of life and death since Abbey Road’s “The End.” Mathieu Santos’ bass thumps melodically throughout the song as Milo Bonacci’s simple riffs push the wave up and down. Cellist Allie Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller’s parts are not as salient. However, while they go unnoticed on the surface, the strings are audible throughout most of the song, and undeniably heighten the emotion of every part of the song.

And even though “Dying” is the heart of the album, you can’t negate the energy of “Not an Explanation,” or overlook the dark mystery of the EP’s closer “Ghost Under Rocks.”

The EP, often sounding like a demo, radiates Riot’s potential, but leaves the listener wanting more. While at times there are great moments of layered strings swirling over harsher guitars, the EP does not represent the surging power and energy of a live show. All of this is understandable considering at the time of the EP’s release, Riot was still unsigned. Recently, the band has joined indie powerhouses like Bloc Party and the White Stripes on the V2 label, and next year’s full-length album is much anticipated.

It will be interesting to see if Riot, a band whose music can fill any space, will be able to squeeze into a compact disc. Ra Ra Riot will be playing Saturday, December 15, at The Middle East with Tokyo Police Club.