After being a band for a decade, it’s easy to get disillusioned with the tedium of adulthood, but Need Your Light, the fourth full-length from Ra Ra Riot, is the sound of a band being reinvigorated by their own existence. Correspondingly, the album sees the group—which originated in Syracuse but has now dispersed all over the country—getting back to their house party roots without abandoning the more heady soundscapes they explored with 2013’s Beta Love. The result is an album that’s celebratory without being saccharine, and that sees the group collectively mining their prior experiences to craft something that looks toward the future with an optimistic gaze.
The original plan was for the band—which features vocalist Wes Miles, bassist Mathieu Santos, guitarist Milo Bonacci, violinist Rebecca Zeller and drummer Kenny Bernard—to take the first extended break of their career after the year and a half they spent on the road supporting Beta Love. After a few months, however, they couldn’t help themselves from working on new music. “The inspiration came very quickly,” Miles says, explaining that he decided to fly out to Los Angeles to start fleshing out ideas with previous producer Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello). Shortly afterward, the group went on a writing trip to Milwaukee and began the process of creating what would eventually become Need Your Light. To fully realize their vision, RaRaRiot ended up working with a host of previous collaborators, including Ryan Hadlock (who produced 2008’s debut The Rhumb Line); longtime friend and sound engineer Andrew Maury (who co-produced 2010’s The Orchard); and Vampire Weekend producer Rostam (who is also half of the avant garde R&B duo Discovery alongside Miles).
In the past RaRa Riot have latched onto cerebral concepts like the Singularity or futurism, but with this album they cast a wider net, focusing on everything from sexual relationships to the Challenger explosion. “ It was fun to write songs about Internet affairs and retain a kind of tech-aspect, but it’s much more understated,” Miles explains. The stories are conveyed in such a way that it leaves the listener the chance to attach a more personal meaning to each of the 10 tracks. Whether Miles is singing about something fantastic or mundane, there’s an enduring energy to the songs onNeed Your Light, which illustrates that in many ways, RaRa Riot are still only getting started.