When last we encountered any members of Ra Ra Riot, it was to celebrate the impending release of their long-awaited second album The Orchard. It just so happens that around that time, before the band set out on the road with the new record, bassist Mathieu Santos was holed up in his native Mass working on his own
batch of tunes, ones that are not a radical departure from RRR, but which carve out a more electronic affably spiky identity for Santos the solo artist. While the record was finished off this year in the musician’s adopted home of New Jersey, its roots give the album its title: Massachusetts 2010.
If some of the album lacks the hooky immediacy of Santos’ day job, a similar fresh-faced energy is there, on “Northern Mentality”, the peppy “Want to Get Up”, and particularly on single “I Can Hear the Trains Coming”, even though Santos’ vocals are far more bathed in watery reverb than we’ve ever heard from Wes Miles. There’s a theme of technology running through much of the album and Santos told Mashable recently that “Trains”, which even features an old computer “dial-up” sound, is a good example. “The song was kind of about inevitability, specifically concerning technology and the idea of a technological singularity, Santos told the site, “the lines in the choruses (‘Where did you learn do to do something like that?’) could be a conversation between a user and their computer.”
Other moments on Massachusetts 2010 include the driving “I Said So”, the album’s “rocker” if there is one, “Silly Thoughts”, airy and punctuated by hand claps, the shimmering instrumental “Good Return Theme” and “Massachusetts” (he does love that state), a track that appeared in a more chamber/cello-featuring form on The Orchard but here ups the Afropop charm, complete with wood blocks. It’s a reworking that that won’t exactly put to those rest those Vampire Weekend comparisons that have nipped at RRR’s heels for a few years now.
We’re pretty sure he can live with that. There’s a lot to like here, so tell us what you think. How does Matthew Santos fare without his usual compatriots? Rate it and write your review of Santos’ Massachusetts 2010.