"Dying Is Fine" by Ra Ra Riot
"Ghost Under Rocks" begins Ra Ra Riot's debut full-length with a pleasing mix of urgency and understatement. The New York group's violin and cello tug at a fitful post-punk rhythm, singer Wesley Miles rides a tricky border between innocence and bitter disillusionment, and all these contrasting elements challenge each other. For the rest of the album, they cuddle up into more comfortable positions. Mildness and friendliness help things flow along so nicely, in fact, that The Rhumb Line softens the impact of generally nuanced and energetic songwriting. "Each Year," "St. Peter's Day Festival," and "Winter '05" build up a lot of goodwill with their baby-faced smiles and pouts, so the band could definitely get away with a little teeth-gnashing. Instead, it follows with "Dying Is Fine," a catchy number that points to its conflicted emotional range without really piercing to the quick. Not that Ra Ra Riot should give up its agreeable subtlety, but a hint of aggression wouldn't necessarily cancel it out. In fact, comforting tunes are more so when they also aggravate the wounds a bit.