Arts

Ra Ra Riot

Beta Love | Barsuk

2 / 5

BETA LOVE, THE third studio album from indie band Ra Ra Riot, is cheesy shit. Now I know what you’re thinking, “cheesy shit” is a pretty strong phrase to use to open a review. I know it’s strong—that’s why I used it. Beta Love is pretty much a generic dance-pop album. There’s lots of bass, lots of synth, and lots of falsetto man-singing about girls and dancing…but there isn’t much else. That’s where this album really fails.

Beta Love is billed as a pseudo-concept album inspired by the works of technologically prophetic writer Ray Kurzweil. If you’re at all familiar with Kurzweil’s work, you would expect heading into this album at least some intelligent or philosophical lyrics about the rapid evolution of technology. Instead, the album seems more like the band read a quote by Kurzweil once, wrote a chorus to one song based off it, and then threw it on an album with a bunch of completely unrelated songs. Saying the album was “inspired by Kurzweil” seems like little more than an excuse to give a couple of songs computer-related names (see “Binary Mind” and the title track “Beta Love”) and then over-produce and synthesize the living daylights out of the whole album.

The result is 11 songs of soulless, tedious dreck. A couple of songs on Beta Love will likely make their token run through a few club playlists, and then the album will fade quietly into obscurity. As it should.

—Brennan Bova

Tegan and Sara

Heartthrob | Warner Bros.

2.5 / 5

IT REALLY SHOULDN’T be a surprise to listeners when they pop in Heartthrob for the first time and hear a wildly different Tegan and Sara. Instead of their trademark brand of folksy acoustic (and occasionally electric) guitar jams, they now rely on synthesizers and slick production. After spending the last few years collaborating with artists like Tiësto, David Guetta, and Morgan Page, it was only a matter of time before the Calgarian sister duo absorbed some new sounds.

While  Tegan and Sara flirted with synthesizers on previous releases The Con (2007) and Sainthood (2009), Heartthrob sees the duo completely forsaking the sound that made them so distinctive in the first place, transforming into yet another ‘80s-influenced electro-pop band, and becoming relatively indistinguishable from the masses in the process. To their credit, the upbeat, energetic dance tracks are rather enjoyable; lead single “Closer” along with “Goodbye, Goodbye” and “Drove Me Wild” are infectious pop songs of undeniable quality, despite sounding completely unlike the Tegan and Sara of old.

While “I’m Not Your Hero” and “Now I’m All Messed Up” manage to dazzle thanks to their powerful choruses, the slower ballad tracks are overall tiring to listen to. “I Was a Fool”, in particular, is quite the snooze-fest. These songs completely lack the raw emotion of previous classics like “Call it Off” and “Dark Come Soon.”

Heartthrob proves the sisters still know how to write relatable tales of relationship woes—but they need to recapture their old magic before their fans should be bothered to care.

—Max Szyc