Article by Jasmine Soucy
Describing a band as pop veterans feels a bit strange. Maybe it’s because these two terms are not often paired, or maybe it’s because we have some subconscious inclination that pop music is so ephemeral that no band could ever fit that description. Tell you what though, Ra Ra Riot does. With ten years of active music making under their proverbial belts, this band can tell you a thing or two about indie pop. Their four album run has shown an admirable willingness to try it all and live in the moment, whether the musical translation of that is synth or sometimes heart wrenching violin riffs.
I Need Your Light is the ultimate expression of this.
Ok, so fair enough: at first you may mistake any given song from this album for the latest Fun!, or Vance Joy track. But, listen closer my friend. I Need Your Light may be as jovial, young, and ear-worm heavy as every other pop album, but it is also shows a high level of substance and experimentation. Lets face it, no one is exactly going to be moved by a pop album whose title could totally work as the name of a Grey’s Anatomy episode unless said album is killer.
And it is. The album’s namesake song, I Need Your Light, has all of the things going for it. There is the stark and raw quality of Wes Miles’ voice that we know and crave. There is the pairing of simplistic lyrics with sophisticated musicianship that we have come to know and enjoy. But there is also an uncanny rough and tumble directness of a certain type that we have not seen since Ghost on the Rocks. The song’s crescendo brings the listener to musical heights never thought possible by the simple employment of earnest sincerity.
Now let’s talk about Absolutely. Yes, to the more weathered ear, it can come off as a touch too giddy.
Really? We’ll live the next 365 days in a self=realizing utopia? Really? The more you listen, though, the
more you warm up to this nice little song. Because the reality is that it is not a nice little song, it’s an anthem. And if its positivity makes you uncomfortable, listen harder. ‘Cause you are meant to find
yourself somewhere in this track, and you will.
It is probably no mistake that this album’s two standout songs (at a glance) are those that are at the farthest extremes from one another. I Need Your Light should be highlighted for the likes of pairings like
this, but should ultimately be remembered for all of the nuanced good that lies between. To mention a few of the songs that really flesh out this listening experience, Water is an audial reminder of where the band has been and where it clearly intends to go. The bassy synth brings you in and the high school-like
lyrics keep your attention. Foreign Lovers is a pleasant “Fyou” to the realities of relationships, minus the drama and resentment. If a song could ever induce acceptance by atmospheric musical nuance, this one is it.
Pop veterans, sure. But Ra Ra Riot doesn’t really care about that stuff. They care about expression, and
I Need Your Light makes this very clear. This album achieves two big things. It is at once a thoughtful re-exploration of a rawer sounding musical approach that has not surfaced since the group’s first album. By superimposing a more mature lyrical aesthetic on a typically upbeat musical backdrop however, Ra Ra
Riot also departs from any and all of their old tricks, making this a true coming of age album.
In short, we all inevitably get caught up in life, responsibilities, and relationships. Such is the game face of our day today. “I Need Your Light” tells the story of the raw youthfulness we possessed before any of these things, and reminds us that we still have it.
Ra Ra Riot is playing in Montreal at Bar Le Ritz with PWR BTMM and And The Kids on April 15. Tickets HERE. 9:30 p.m. $20/15.