Torch Music Review

Shedding light on the music you should be listening to

Ra Ra Riot – “Beta Love”

The music of Ra Ra Riot is as pleasant-sounding as ever, but the band’s “out with the old, in with the new” approach on the new album has yielded unfortunate results.

It turns out that “the old” was pretty great, while “the new” is better described with words like “ineffective” and “unfortunate.”

The popular strings-laden indie rockers have released their third album, “Beta Love.” On it, they’ve attempted to add zest in the form of minor modernization and dance floor ready beats. It’s not a bad idea, changing up their approach from the more traditional sound of “The Orchard”–if only it had worked a little better.

“Beta Love” is by no means terrible; Ra Ra Riot have proved before they can do pop well. The most glaring flaw is that the new additions—a plethora of synthesizers and much dancier beats—repeatedly fall flat. It doesn’t feel natural. Rather than seeing simply the show, you can see the puppeteers uncertainly pulling the strings, muttering, “Maybe they’ll like this.”

It works at times. The mechanical pop of “Binary Mind” hits the mark, though it’s a tightrope walk landed solely because of a big, infectious hook and not the kitschy effects. However, this leads to a less positive conclusion: It’s a bad sign when even an album’s best songs have to overcome broken parts.

This means most of the other songs don’t come off as well; too many come off similarly to the  off-putting “What I Do for U.” There’s awkward implementation of bass beats, synthesizers, and vocal effects throughout, and it usually feels stilted and off. “Beta Love” is modern at the expense of heart, quality and believability.

Ra Ra Riot still sounds nice enough, and that’s the best that can be said for “Beta Love.” It’s nice. We can see what they were going for; it’s just a shame the album feels like something manufactured, not created. The band overthought this one.