Ra Ra Riot, Walter Meego
The childlike innocence of Ra Ra Riot's music and hyperactive stage presence masks a young band familiar with great heartache and turmoil: In June of 2007, drummer John Pike allegedly drowned after a show, but the group — which formed at Syracuse University in 2006 — decided to forge onward. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pike's spirit hangs over much of The Rhumb Line, Ra Ra Riot's debut full-length for Barsuk; he wrote or co-wrote half of the songs. But Line is a celebration rather than a eulogy, an optimistic album that features sophisticated strings, rubbery basslines and Wes Miles's wide-eyed, soulful vocals. The group's lovely cover of Kate Bush's "Suspended in Gaffa" sounds like a virginal DeVotchKa, while undulating beats drive standout "Oh, La," a comforting, Death Cab-like rocker which preaches the power of two: "We've got a lot to learn from each other / We have got to stick together." Consider opener Walter Meego the clean-cut, MBA-toting older siblings of MGMT. The glammy space disco and intergalactic funk on the Chicago band's 2008 album Voyager owes quite a bit to the debonair sounds of Roxy Music, Bowie and tinny '80s New Romantics. — Annie Zaleski
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.