Sound Bites

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ra Ra Riot has had a tough road to becoming the next "band to watch" on many critics' lists. Their debut full-length album "The Rhumb Line" is full of great tunes with rhythmic force and cool instrumentation. The Syracuse-based band is making all the stops recently - from Conan to CMJ Music Marathon and South by Southwest Festival.

But a strange and tragic turn changed this band forever. Most of the songs on this album were written by the band's drummer, John Ryan Pike. On the night of June 2, 2007, after a gig in Provincetown, Mass., Pike went missing and was discovered the next day drowned.

So the band was left with the question of what to do without their main songwriter. Ra Ra Riot decided to stay together and within the year had signed a recording contract with V2 records.

Many of the songs that Pike wrote have ironic themes in light of his fate, especially the first single, "Dying is Fine." But the happy, driving rhythm, hopeful lyrics, and beautiful vocals and instrumentation featuring violin keep the songs from being a total bummer. In some ways, this is an uplifting album, illustrating the power that music can have to outlive its creator.

Also check out the cuts "Each Year," "Can You Tell" and the eerie "Ghost Under Rocks."

The next challenge for Ra Ra Riot will be how to continue to grow without the force of Pike's immense songwriting talent.

• Andy Kline is program director at KXLL FM Radio in Juneau. He can be reached at

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