Ra Ra Riot 

Ra Ra Riot wavers between sophistication and bristle. Its August release, The Orchard, lingers too long in midtempo ballads that wax and wane to Wes Miles' quivering tenor, in contrast to the group's earliest efforts that vibrated with infectious urgency. Those releases — 2007's self-titled EP and 2008's full-length debut, The Rhumb Line — still sound spunky and driving. The sextet was experiencing its first blush of buzz when, in 2007, drummer John Pike drowned after leaving a post-gig party. That shock strengthened the remaining members' bond and amplified their resolve, making The Orchard's move onto Billboard's Top 40 albums bittersweet.

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