First Person

Ra Ra Riot show Oxfam some “Beta Love”

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If you’re a fan of Ra Ra Riot, or of music in general, then let me recommend the band’s excellent new album, Beta Love. Released this past Tuesday to much critical acclaim, Beta Love relies less on the string-heavy arrangements of previous albums that allowed critics to pigeonhole them as “chamber pop.” Ra Ra Riot incorporates many more synth sounds on the new album, which allow the band’s knack for writing singalong hooks to shine at a brightness not seen on the first two albums.

Though the band claims inspiration for this album from the works of futurists William Gibson and Ray Kurzweil, my ears hear equal influence from ’80’s popsters like Steve Winwood and Robert Palmer. It’s likely the smartest dance record you’ll hear this year.

For a taste of Ra Ra Riot’s new sound, watch this video of the band performing “I Shut Off” from their new album recently at a studio in NYC:

Of course, I may also be a little bit biased, given how much the band has done in the last few years to help Oxfam fight poverty and injustice. Formed at Syracuse University seven years ago, Ra Ra Riot has supported Oxfam and made space for us at their concerts since their earliest tours to support their debut album, The Rhumb Line. We’ve worked at dozens of concerts with the band and found hundreds of new supporters at those shows. Band members have been loud voices for our crisis and famine appeals to their fans on social media and in PSAs.

They have devoted fans, too. Part of my job as Oxfam’s Music Outreach Manager is to meet with music fans at concerts and festivals around the country. At these events, we keep a pocket-sized card on hand with our contact information and a list of many of the artists who support our work. On that list are names like Coldplay, Radiohead, Tegan & Sara, Jason Mraz, and many others. But the band on that list that regularly gets a “whoa, you work with these guys?” reaction to that list is Ra Ra Riot.

Ra Ra Riot with Oxfam volunteers at a show in Boston. Photo: Oxfam America

When I chat with music fans about Oxfam, I usually make it a point to ask how they learned about our work. It’s not uncommon to hear, “Wes, the singer from Ra Ra Riot, gave me an Oxfam flyer at a show” or “I saw Oxfam mentioned in the liner notes to Ra Ra Riot’s The Orchard album.” The band members have become partners with us in the truest sense of the word.

Happily, it’s a partnership that will continue with their current tour in support of Beta Love. Look for the Oxfam table at a Ra Ra Riot concert in your town soon.

OxfamBuzzList is a blog series about the movies, books, blogs, music, and more that have Oxfam staff and supporters talking. If you’d like to contribute a guest post or suggest a topic, please leave a comment below Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+