New York band Ra Ra Riot is back with their third studio album, Need Your Light. “Water” starts us off easy enough, with Wes Miles’s voice producing the shimmery quality that he’s carried over to other projects like Discovery, the band he co-founded with the keyboardist of Vampire Weekend. The song feels cleansing, and the chorus of “Don’t punish me for what I feel” is an almost cathartic statement to hear. From there, “Foreign Lovers” is short and sweet, and the quasi-title track “I Need Your Light” is an interesting mix of rolling drums and hushed vocals. The entire album plays like a lullaby, albeit a pretty catchy one. It lasts all of thirty-five minutes and thus doesn’t manage to leave a lasting impression, though tracks like “Bouncy Castle” certainly pack more of a punch than others. The band makes a concerted effort to reel us in with impassioned lyrics, but their delivery falls flat. The instrumentals are hollow, and it makes this group’s latest attempt something that belongs on alt radio and not lovingly nestled in your record collection.
Ultimately, Ra Ra Riot has given us ten solid new songs, but they all lack the extra something that would’ve pushed this album over the edge. Maybe it’s the kind of music that would sound better if it were right in your face in a live setting, or maybe its best bet is being played quietly in the background while you try to fall asleep. The timing of its release is certainly appropriate – with springtime just around the corner, this is the synth-y, dreamy material that meshes well with poolside hangouts and long drives. It’s simple, it’s pleasant, it’s the kind of album you don’t have to think about too much. That’s an advantage in the moment, but not down the line. Listeners would do well to keep Need Your Light on their radar this summer, but after that, nobody would blame you for forgetting the words.