Ra Ra Riot, "The Orchard"
Syracuse, N.Y.-based rock act Ra Ra Riot has been tiptoeing around the cusp of major fame since the release of its 2008 debut, "The Rhumb Line." The quintet's follow-up, "The Orchard," is a polished effort that blends syncopated pop beats with a sophisticated string section. Lead vocalist Wes Miles really stretches his pipes on the set, pushing it to an even higher register on tracks like "Massachusetts" and "Foolish." Elsewhere, cellist Alexandra Lawn takes the lead on "You and I Know," where her smoky-voiced delivery creates a welcome change from other material on the set. Popping drum rhythms and Miles' sharp vocals drive the tune "Boy" to full speed, while Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller drench it with melancholy accompaniment. Ra Ra Riot also does a fine job of juxtaposing slow-paced folk (the title track) with danceable rhythms ("Too Dramatic"). The set may not feel as catchy as Ra Ra Riot's well-received debut, but fans should appreciate the band's musical growth.