Something Like Sound

Tag: Ra Ra Riot

Chuck Ragan does Daytrotter

by on Aug.26, 2009, under Blogs

I have often expressed my appreciation for music-session-blog Daytrotter. They’ve done what I could only imagine doing: recording the best up-and-coming artists from a wide swath of the modern independent music using old-fashioned full-band recording techniques.

Yesterday’s session features 6 songs (available for free download, just click on the photo above) from former Hot Water Music singer Chuck Ragan. Earlier this summer we had the chance to see Chuck open for Lucero at the Bluebird, and as I remember Chuck gave one of the most intense folk performances I’ve ever seen.

I thought I’d also take the time to share some of my other favorite Daytrotter sessions here too. Click on the images to go the respective sessions.

Manchester Orchestra

Andy Hull

Andrew Bird


Bon Iver


Death Cab For Cutie

Dinosaur Jr.

John Ralston

Kevin Devine

Langhorne Slim

Michael Zapruder

Minus The Bear


The Mountain Goats

The New Frontiers

The National

Pepi Ginsberg

Ra Ra Riot

The Silent Years

The Snake The Cross The Crown

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

These United States

Vampire Weekend

Young Coyotes

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Death Cab For Cutie (or how I am now $50 poorer)

by on Mar.25, 2009, under Blogs

5 years ago I did not like Death Cab For Cutie. The few songs I’d heard on Clearchannel radio stations always managed to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I thought Ben Gibbard’s vocals were too nasally and high-pitched. That is, until I started watching a television program on PBS called “Austin City Limits.” Playing cuts from their 2005 album Plans, I began to fall in love with the Seattle group’s distinct sound. A mesh of melody, harmony, instrumentation, and catchy lyrics, Death Cab fever began to set in.

In 2008, during the Democratic National Convention here in Denver, I got my first chance to see Gibbard and Walla perform. It was amazing! Armed with 2 acoustic guitars and a baby grand piano, they cut through the political tensions with tune after tune, performed with beautiful simplicity. I knew then that this was one of my favorite groups.

Fast forward to the present day. Death Cab is prepping a new release of some b-sides from their 2008 full length Narrow Stairs and has been debuting tracks on Stereogum (links below). In addition to that, they’re going on tour (again). Last year I missed their performance at Red Rocks because 1: I was out of town and 2: I didn’t have any money. Well, I wasn’t about to let the same thing happen again, so last week I spent my $50 to get a ticket to what will likely be one of the best shows of the year (even though it’s not going down until July). Furthermore, my other current favorites Andrew Bird and Ra Ra Riot are playing. It will surely be an amazing night.

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Top 10 Albums of 2008

by on Jan.19, 2009, under "Best of" Lists


This is a collaborative article, it’s the work of Jake, Spencer and myself.

Top Ten Mainstream Albums

1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Although a debut album, the Fleet Foxes sound more mature and together on their self-titled release than most bands ever sound. Harmonically, the band sounds almost immaculate. They create an ethereal mood which is hard to lose after listening to the album. Although lyrically straightforward, the music is the important part of this album and it is executed astonishingly well. Listen to “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” “White Winter Hymnal,” and “He Doesn’t Know Why.” -JR

2. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

The New York indie scene broke out nationally this year, and leading the wave was Vampire Weekend. Their sweater-vested semi-classical approach to music is infused with African drum beats and subtle pop-culture references. Catchy melodies and lyrics match the equally well orchestrated instruments on VW’s first album. Listen to “Mansard Roof,” “A-Punk,” and “I Stand Corrected.” -TW

3. Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords

It’s not often that a comedy album makes the top ten albums list for a year, but Flight of the Conchord’s self-titled album is more than your average comedy album. The first release from the New Zealand duo is satirical and sarcastic in every sense; even the music mocks popular styles. The songs are simultaneously well-produced musically and hilarious lyrically. Listen to “Think About It,” “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros,” and “Business Time.” -JR

4. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

Innovation occurs when risks are taken. Kanye’s newest record does not pick up where 2007′s Graduation left off, but instead cuts a new track. Markedly simpler in production, 808s relies heavily on three things: drum machines, lyrics, and auto-tune. This move produced one of the most honest sounding hip-hop records released last year. Listen to “Paranoid,” “Street Lights,” and “RoboCop.” -TW

5. Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

A mark of a great song is when the same melody from it can be repeatedly played without losing interest. Death Cab for Cutie tested this theory multiple occasions on this album and proved it true. Although being deceptively simple, many songs from this album have the potential to stay around for years. With a superb blend of light vocals and mixed instruments, this album will not soon be forgotten. Listen to “Cath…” and “No Sunlight.” -SN

6. TV On The Radio – Dear Science

In their newest album, TV On The Radio brilliantly uses drum loops and deep, eerie lyrics to present an interesting and fun record. Dear Science is at times chaotic, at times somber, and at times full of grandiose beauty. At all times, however, it is intelligent, entertaining, and deeply poignant. Listen to “Lover’s Day,” “Golden Age,” and “Halfway Home.” -JR

7. Anberlin – New Surrender

Shifting into a more mainstream sound has not stopped Anberlin from continuing their stream of catchy lyrics and melodies. Despite a deeper dependence on a synthesizer, Anberlin’s music continues to be driven by fast guitars and unforgettable lyrics. Listen to “Breaking” and “Haight St.” -SN

8. Coldplay – Viva La Vida (Or Death and All His Friends)

Hailed as the new U2, Coldplay shot to stardom unflinchingly with their previous albums. Holding up under the intense expectations of fans and critics alike, Viva la Vida portrays Coldplay’s classic sound in some songs, while musically progressing in others. Listen to “Lost!” and “Violet Hill.” -SN

9. Snow Patrol – A Hundred Million Suns

Snow Patrol combines a fast-paced alternative rock sound with simple melodies and song structures for a relaxing album. With an unusual singing style that varies through the album, A Hundred Million Suns keeps originality close to its core. Listen to “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me To It” and “Disaster Button.” ­-SN

10. I Hate Kate – Embrace The Curse

This record mixes 80′s new wave with modern pop to produce an enjoyable listening experience. Perhaps one of the best parts of this album is that there is definite ebb and flow; not every song sounds the same. Listen to “Bed of Black Roses,” “It’s You,” and “I’m In Love With A Sociopath.” -TW

Albums You Should Know

1. Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line

With a strong string section composed of a violin and a cello, Ra Ra Riot’s quick yet relaxed sound is excellent for studying, but is also upbeat enough to dance to. With a perfect blend of all instruments, they skillfully move from songs reminiscent of the Beatles to an 80′s style synthesis-driven song to a Kate Bush cover written in waltz time. The phenomenal chemistry of the band is well represented by all aspects of the album. Listen to “Dying is Fine” and “St. Peter’s Day Festival.” -SN

2. Sigur Rós -Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Beautiful and unique soundscapes fill Icelandic band Sigur Rós’s newest release. Jónsi Birgisson’s falsetto voice at times soars above the background music in a piercing and intense way. Other times, he matches the tone and intensity of the sound he is singing with, creating some of the most ethereal and stunning sounds being produced by any band today. Listen to “Gobbledigook,” “Við spilum endalaust,” and “Suð í eyrum.” -JR

3. Colour Revolt – Plunder, Beg & Curse

Realization, raw vocals, and silvery-sounding guitars fill this record. Lyrically reminiscent of the epic poems, it maintains timeless ideas about the frailty of humanity and the fleeting nature of temptation. Musically, singer Jesse Coppenbarger’s intense delivery matches the well-produced instrumentation. Even with a few exceptionally strong tracks, this album should be taken as a whole. Listen to “Moses of the South,” “A Siren,” and “What Will Come of Us?” -TW

4. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride

In their 16th album, The Mountain Goats continue to impress with deep and touching lyrics, complimented with equally touching melodies. Lead singer John Darnielle’s vocal skills, which allow him to move from a warbled, but pure, quiet to a confident, and sometimes angry, crescendo, drive the album. However, brilliant guitar and drum playing accent the music more readily in any previous Mountain Goats releases. Listen to “San Bernadino,” “Heretic Pride,” and “So Desperate.” ­-JR

5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus, Dig!!!

After a four year hiatus, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds returned in 2008 with their 14th studio album. In it, the band seems to forget that twenty-year-old groups are supposed to put out predictable albums, instead producing what may be their most exciting release to date. Lead singer Cave sounds like any punk rock frontman should – full of swagger and an attitude which compliments the driving bass and drum beats. Listen to “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!,” “Albert Goes West,” and “We Call Upon the Author.” -JR

6. Nada Surf – Lucky

Nada Surf is one of those bands that has been around for over 10 years and has not released a bad record. Lucky showcases a more mature and developed sound with beautiful melodies and bright lyrics. Listen to “Whose Authority,” “Weightless,” and “Are You Lightning?” -TW

7. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

If My Morning Jacket wanted to make an album which was easily pigeon-holed, they wouldn’t have made Evil Urges. They spend time flirting with psychedelic hippie rock, play with folk roots, and throw in some late-80s electronica. However, each song is without genre, and distinctly My Morning Jacket. Listen to “I’m Amazed,” “Evil Urges,” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pts. 1 & 2.” -JR

8. The New Frontiers – Mending

A bold mix of indie-pop and alt-country, the only full length release of the now-disbanded New Frontiers is a monument to their musical prowess. Mending covers a broad range of emotions and poses deep questions. Listen to “Black Lungs,” “This Is My Home,” and “Who Will Give Us Love?” -TW

9. We Shot The Moon – Fear And Love

Formed in the wake of Waking Ashland’s breakup in 2007, We Shot the Moon managed to produce a well-put together album within a year. The piano-based songs are well-balanced with their lyrical style. Uplifting and upbeat, their songs leave the listener feeling quite positive. Listen to “LTFP” and “Julie.” -SN

10. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound

The ’59 Sound channels the classic sound of Bruce Springsteen while adding straightforward punk sensibility and style. This record inspires a certain sense of nostalgia with enjoyable and danceable tunes. Listen to “Old White Lincoln,” “The ’59 Sound,” and “Miles Davis & The Cool.” -TW

Local Releases of Note

3OH!3 – Want

In an innovative fusion of rap and techno, these two white guys from Boulder certainly have gained massive popularity across Colorado. Selling out their highly energetic shows quickly, 3OH!3 has developed a large fan base in this state. Their album goes from one dance-worthy song to another with impossible to forget melodies. Listen to “I Can’t Do It Alone” and “Starstrukk.” -SN

Fear Before – Fear Before

Hardcore music has never been more accessible than with Fear Before’s newest release. Opting to focus more on melody and lyrics instead of sheer heavy sounds, this record is enjoyable even outside of a mosh pit. Listen to “Treeman” and “Review Our Lives (Epic).” -TW

DeVotchKa – A Mad & Faithful Telling

DeVotchKa, the Denver band made famous by their appearance on the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack, continues to use unique instrumentation and imitate unique music styles very effectively in their newest album. They incorporate Eastern European, Spanish, Mexican, and American music in a unique and interesting way. Listen to “Basso Profundo” and “Along the Way.” -JR

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Concert Review: Ra Ra Riot at the Hi-Dive

by on Sep.22, 2008, under Concert Reviews

Two weeks ago we ran a music review about an up-and-coming music act from Syracuse, New York, named Ra Ra Riot.

Coincidentally, Ra Ra Riot happened to be playing in Denver this last week. Their new album The Rhumb Line, recently released on Barsuk Records, has received excellent reviews from the likes of Rolling Stone and Spin Magazine and has potential to make this band the next big thing.img_0420

The Hi-Dive, a self-proclaimed “Indie Rock Bar,” is a cozy venue buried in the heart of southern Denver. What the venue lacked in size, it made up for in sound. Not only was the show well mixed, but also comfortably loud.

The first opening act, Pepi Ginsberg, was smooth and original. Her songs told stories about a variety of topics, including tides and escaped convicts. Inventive lyrics, coupled with Ginsberg’s distinct voice, made for an enjoyable opener.

Following Ginsberg was the experimental-electro-pop group Walter Meego. Armed with a plethora of vintage synthesizers, effects pedals, and drum machines, Walter Meego got the entire venue moving and dancing. They played with intensity and did not stop between songs.

Finally it was time for the headliner: Ra Ra Riot. Somehow the entire six-member band fit on the small stage and did not injure each other during the course of the night. As soon as their set started, they jumped right in to some of their most upbeat numbers. After playing through about three songs, they finally stopped to introduce themselves and then continued right on through their set.

Ra Ra Riot is still a fairly new band on the indie-pop music scene, and this was evident in the choice of set list. While most bands could go back years into their repertoire, Ra Ra Riot only has an EP and a newly released album of material. This fact, however, did not hamper the group as they played through almost every song they have released. Some of the highlights included a stunning rendition of “Winter ’05,” “Dying Is Fine,” “Ghost Under Rocks,” and my personal favorite “Too Too Too Fast” (which was performed with a good mix of synthesizer). Their recordings really do not do them justice, because the heavy hitting dance-beat drumming was really more prominent during their live set.

As their set came to a close, the crowd would not stop cheering. “Alright, we’ll save you the trouble of going off stage then coming back on again,” said singer Wes Miles. After a quick encore the night was over.

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Album Review: The Rhumb Line

by on Sep.08, 2008, under Album Reviews

img_0047Most bands take years to develop. The guitarist needs to learn how to play with the bassist. The vocalist needs to write lyrics appropriate to the music style. The drummer needs to bring it all together with the beat. Throwing in a violin and cello usually makes the balance even harder to achieve. However, a band from Syracuse, New York, seems to have pulled off the mix in less than two years.

Ra Ra Riot’s first album, The Rhumb Line, proves that upbeat music can still be relaxing. Although a violin and cello can be easily lost with most bands, Ra Ra Riot promises that this will not be the case for their group. The opening track, “Ghost Under Rocks,” begins with the cello and continues to be string-driven through the rest of the song.

This trend continues throughout the album as the strings continue to be the centerpiece. Pop string arrangements appear especially strong on “Winter ’05,” a song reminiscent of the Beatles classic “Eleanor Rigby.” However, Ra Ra Riot’s style shifts throughout the album, starting the album with the easy listening tracks “Ghost Under Rocks” and “Each Year.” The Rhumb Line becomes dance-worthy on “Dying is Fine” and a cover of Kate Bush’s “Suspended in Gaffa” while it takes on an 80′s power pop sound on “Too Too Too Fast.”

For lyrics, Ra Ra Riot aims for poetry. As a result, some songs are difficult to pull a meaning out of. Sentences often run together, giving the songs a sense of continuity, but occasionally sacrificing meaning to do so. Despite this lyrical structure, some songs do have evident meaning. An example of this is apparent on “Can You Tell,” wherein singer Wes Miles wonders if a girl knows the way he feels about her. The general theme throughout though is focused on poetry. One song, “Dying is Fine,” is based extensively on a poem by E. E. Cummings.

Over all, The Rhumb Line combines an upbeat tempo with a laid back, relaxing sound and poetic lyrics. The three songs in the middle of the album, “Winter ’05,” “Dying is Fine,” and “Can You Tell” seem to set themselves above the rest. However, the entire album complements itself and ties together through all the different styles. This record is a must-own for fans of Vampire Weekend and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.

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