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
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