Back on track and blazing its own trail
Ra Ra Riot
The Rhumb Line (Barsuk)
ESSENTIAL "Can You Tell"
Ra Ra Riot drummer John Pike drowned in 2007, a tragedy that had cast a blue-gray ambiguity over the band's full-length debut. Is "The Rhumb Line" elegy or vivification - an act of picking it all up and starting over on another stage? Neither, as it turns out, and both, which is what makes the whole 10-song orchestral-pop opus cohere so well. Pike gets writing credits for some of the material here (as does Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend), and it's impossible to hear his "Dying Is Fine" as anything less than seriously freaky coincidence. But "The Rhumb Line" - defined as a straight-shot line across all meridians, for the geospatially uninitiated - mostly just thrums with an uncommon sort of pop radiance. The only real low light is "Each Year," which seems to rip the chorus right off the Clash anthem "Lost in the Supermarket." Oops. [Matthew Shaer]