Coming off 2016's Need Your Light, Ra Ra Riot return with their fifth studio album, 2019's lyrical and effusive Superbloom. Largely recorded in Los Angeles with former Vampire Weekend guitarist Rostam Batmanglij, Superbloom is a more organic-sounding album than much of Ra Ra Riot's work since 2013's Beta Love and finds them balancing their analog guitar, keyboard, drums, and violin approach with their love of sonically adventurous, dance-oriented pop. At the center of the album is the darkly anthemic "Belladonna." Inspired in part by the psychedelic 1973 Japanese animated film Belladonna of the Sadness, the song is one of Ra Ra Riot's most exuberant and stadium-sized singles and brings to mind the large-scale uplift of artists like U2 and Kate Bush without succumbing to imitation. Similarly engaging, the hooky "Flowers" is a rambling folk-rocker in the tradition of Fleetwood Mac. Conversely, cuts like "Bad to Worse" with its fuzzy bass and keyboards, and "War & Famine" with its atmospheric string section, bring to mind the mature, '80s sophistication of Peter Gabriel. Elsewhere, they draw upon the sleek emotionality of Prince on "Gimme Time" and dip into shimmering disco-soul on "Bitter Conversation." But again and again, while all of these songs certainly conjure their possible sources of musical inspiration, they never veer toward mimicry. Lead singer Wes Miles has grown into a robustly charismatic vocalist, ably balancing a sonorous mid-range croon with his spine-tingling falsetto. Similarly, the band has developed a much more integrated sense of how to contrast the classical talents of violinist/keyboardist Rebecca Zeller with their kinetic, post-punk rhythms. It's a balance Ra Ra Riot have been attempting to perfect since transitioning away from the chamber pop of their first two albums, and one which sounds refreshingly distinctive on Superbloom.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar