String-laden Syracuse, New York, quintet Ra Ra Riot endured a rocky start but still managed to distinguish itself as one of the finds of the year with last month's full-length debut, The Rhumb Line. Two years ago, the group's original frontman bailed, leaving vocal duties to keyboardist Wesley Miles. Then, while on tour last summer, drummer, co-writer and backup singer John Pike was found drowned after a gig. After some consideration, the group decided to forge on. Fans will be thankful because the resulting album is incandescent. Violin and cello spark a pop-frisson that merges the orchestral warmth of Belle and Sebastian with the Smiths' infectious, racing melodies.