Last Tuesday, I wrote about Rostam Batmanglij’s musical midas touch, which turns every composition he touches to gold. Well in the eight days between then and now (Can we call eight days a Beatles week? Kinda like a baker’s dozen? Anyone?), I found out that he’s connected to an album that I was already enjoying immensely, The Orchard by Ra Ra Riot. Though Batmanglij’s participation in the record is limited to “Do You Remember,” a song that he mixed and maybe even co-wrote (I found conflicting information about whether he helped write the song or not), the whole album shares the ornate production and willingness to experiment with instrumentation and mood that have drawn me to Batmanglij’s collaborations in the past. In truth, my first listen of the album was somewhat flukey, as I started playing it while haphazardly testing out MOG’s streaming music service for an article I wrote for the Phonograph, a great UK-based music blog. Even though I moved on to try out other streaming services and websites, I kept the MOG window open so I could keep listening to The Orchard. I just couldn’t turn it off. Maybe it was frontman Wes Miles’ voice, which climbs so gracefully and feels like an estranged best friend, thanks to the fact that I went through a truly obsessive period of listening to the record he did with Batmanglij under the name Discovery. Or maybe it was the string arrangements, which add depth and shape on more than one level, thickening the mix sonically while counterbalancing the gravity of the lyrics, some of which deal with topics as weighty as a former bandmate’s death. For me, that’s Ra Ra Riot’s strength – being light and heavy at the same time, so you’re left with a feeling of pleasant (or as good friend of the blog Trang put it, “pla pla pleasant”) depth. It’s a quality that inspires repeated listening, making them the musical opposite of a movie like There Will Be Blood — an amazing film that I liked very much but never want to sit down and watch again. Ever. Please don’t make me. I will keep listening to The Orchard, and I hope you’ll check out “Do You Remember” below. If you dig it, click here to snag the album from iTunes.
Ra Ra Riot — “Do You Remember“