Donald Kravitz, Getty Images If you are frustrated by talk of a Metallica album…
- Posted on Jun 18th 2010 4:45PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
But while the band's sound is certainly sweet, it's anything but saccharine -- layers of diverse instrumentation (guitars, bass, drums, keys, violin, accordion, ukulele) matched up with boy-girl vocals and smart, expressive lyrics suggest a slightly more nuanced take on pop perfection.Recorded in Montreal last summer with producer Kees Dekker (Plants and Animals), Rah Rah's new full-length 'Breaking Hearts' (the follow-up to their 2008 debut 'Going Steady,' ) makes the most of the group's large roster, bursting with effervescent melodies, memorable group choruses and spirited musicianship. If that sounds familiar, they're certainly operating out of the same songbook as fellow Queen City collective Library Voices -- but Rah Rah serves up their own distinctively youthful vibe that hints at the kind of wide-eyed romanticism that often gives way to more sombre contemplation.
While 'Salty Cities' is a bit of a moody departure from the rest of the album's upbeat indie-rock edge, it proves the record's most indelible moment: when golden-voiced vocalist Erin Passmore intones the poignant "I'll make you tired/Then I'll let you sleep" chorus, her bandmates echoing in harmony behind her, it's enough to give listeners goosebumps.
The song highlights all that's good about Rah Rah, from the organ-like opening melody paired with a driving backbeat, to the subtle but skillful buzzy guitar hovering in the background, all rendered with a clean, bright sound that doesn't undercut the requisite dreaminess. Where other collectives (hello, Broken Social Scene) might cloak their multi-layered melodies in a swirl of haze or employ a more wall-of-sound approach, Rah Rah seem content to let their impeccable playing speak for itself.
There's also a nice duality at play in the poetic lyrics, which lend themselves to interpretation while suggesting something at once ethereal and earthly. One gets the sense of listening in on a wrenching personal conversation -- when Passmore lets her voice soar as she wonders aloud, "How could I not stay?" the emotion rings through loud and clear whether she's talking to herself, or someone else.
Like all 13 terrific tracks on 'Breaking Hearts,' 'Salty Cities' is a showcase for Rah Rah's strength in numbers, but the song also serves as a star turn for Passmore (Marshall Burns handles most of the singing duties on the rest of the album), whose distinctive voice is a welcome change from either the histrionics or bored murmurs on either end of the pop spectrum these days.
It takes some chutzpah to give your band a cheeky name, but with exceptional songs like 'Salty Cities', Rah Rah prove they're a promising new act to cheer for, indeed.
Rah Rah play at Bread and Circus (299 Augusta Ave.) on Friday, June 18 at midnight as part of NXNE.