CD review for Nov. 21, 2008

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Ra Ra Riot

"The Rhumb Line"

Sonically, you could lump Ra Ra Riot in with cutesy indie pop bands such as Vampire Weekend or Black Kids - or any group, really, that gained blog buzz in summer 2007 with snappy melodies, sometimes diverse rhythms and a catchy name.

The difference between Riot's full-length debut and releases earlier this year from Vampire Weekend and Black Kids is one of maturity, and maybe also chamber music. Riot isn't interested in being witty or coy, possibly because that was never the band's main focus, and possibly because the quintet has a sense of tragedy beyond its age (coming from the mysterious death of John Pike, Riot's drummer, in June 2007).

That depth comes out on "Rhumb Line's" closer, "Run My Mouth." The lyrics are straightforward and personal, and the instrumental string work makes the track a lushly arranged end to a well-constructed debut.

Most everything leading up to that finish shows the band's potential, with Wesley Miles' voice drifting over cello and violin lines on album opener "Ghost Under Rocks," then over a laidback rock track on "Each Year," or 1980s-fueled synthesizers on "Too Too Too Fast."

"The Rhumb Line" isn't a great debut, but it is a good one, with each song hinting at Ra Ra Riot's chance at a longer career than its peers are likely to get.

Rating: '''

- Margaret Hair, 4 Points

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