Label Year is a feature in which I purchase all of the releases of a given record label for an entire calendar year and post on each one. 2011 will be devoted to Arts & Crafts out of Toronto. For more info, check out the introduction.
- Artist: Ra Ra Riot
- Title: Too Dramatic
- Format: Digital Single
- Release Date: 03/29/2011
- Catalog Number: ACX066
Ra Ra Riot presents a unique circumstance to this series so far in that I believe Arts & Crafts is NOT their main label, but rather their Canadian (and perhaps also additional international markets) distributor. Most everything you read on the band highlights Barsuk Records first. It ultimately doesn't matter too much because Arts & Crafts HAS released the band's most recent album The Orchard and now this digital single for a great track on the album called "Too Dramatic."
I really dig this song. I have been a casual fan of the band for a few years now (thanks, NPR!), and "Too Dramatic" only makes me want to get more into the band. They have a clean yet energetic sound. Being half rock band, half string quartet is a big part of this, and in turn, makes them a good fit on Arts& Crafts. Ra Ra Riot would make perfect sense touring with Memphis – both make elegant indie pop – but they could also vibe with the energy of Chilly Gonzales and Chikita Violenta. While each act has their distinctiveness, some cohesion is starting to emerge (to my ear at least) among the label's roster & aesthetic as we delve deeper into the year's releases.
Anyways, back to "Too Dramatic". The band I can't help thinking of when I listen to this is Vampire Weekend. There seems to be some comfortable overlap in the voices of both band's singers: smooth but sharp, a gift for falsetto, and able to be described as both yelping and melodious simultaneously. And musically, both Ra Ra Riot and Vampire Weekend seem to have an affinity for old and exotic sounds. On this release here, Ra Ra Riot feels equally comfortable doing the 80s as they do classical, all while staying very "now." Each member of the six piece brings something to it and it all comes together in a beautiful way. It's an excellent song.
Let's talk briefly about the video for the song, which is also excellent. I love how it juxtaposes the band performing with a stop-motion landscape that continues to grow into an explosion of vitality and color (A little bit of arts & crafts going on, if you will…). That's the main draw. But really, how can you not love a beautiful and talented set of female string players, the guitarist and bassist having cool sweaters – not to mention the Dude-esque sweater of the singer – and then the drummer rocking that mustache! The image of a band isn't what matters to me, but I can't help being a bit taken with how Ra Ra Riot appears here.
I suppose I should talk about the other tracks that come with "Too Dramatic." There is a cut from The Orchard sessions that didn't make the album called "Megafauna." Don't let its "leftover" status fool you, it's a good song. The Morning Benders remixed "Too Dramatic," and it's a compelling listen. They slow things down, emphasizing the vocals and harmonies, and find a groove of the song that is masked by the propulsion of the original. Finally, there is a cover, or interpretation rather, of another track from the album called "Keep it Quiet," as performed by GOP – one of the band's alter egos. Now, it is a surprisingly different sound than one might expect, but I think this is a really cool idea regardless: a band having an alter ego and offering completely different performances of their songs. Does anyone know of other examples of this?
The "discussion" aspect of this post, if anyone's interested, is that I was thinking about whom this release might be aimed for, or the marketing aspect of something like a digital single or EP. By that I mean, do you think such a release is better for getting new listeners interested in the band, and hopefully in turn to acquire the full-length, or is it something people who already have the album and a familiarity with Ra Ra Riot would want? Is it for the new fan or the existing fan, in other words? It could well be both, but I suppose I'm inclined to think it's the latter case. It seems those who already like the band would be more curious for remixes, unreleased cuts, and "alter ego covers." That's just my opinion. What do you think?
Next up: Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin' On (album) + "Black Water / Ferriswheel" (Split 7")
Previously on Label Year: