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The Poets Dead - RAH RAH


RELEASE INFO

LABEL: Hidden Pony
RELEASE DATE: October 2, 2012
FORMATS:Digital / CD / Vinyl

Band Members

Marshall Burns: Vocals, guitar
Erin Passmore: Vocals, drums, keys, guitar
Kristina Hedlund: Violin, vocals, keys, accordion
Joel Passmore: Bass
Leif Thorseth: Guitar
Jeffrey Romanyk: Drums, guitar, keys

Discography

The Poet's Dead LP - Oct 2, 2012 - Hidden Pony
Little Poems 7" - Jun 15, 2011 - Hidden Pony
Rahmixes LP - Nov 15, 2011 - Hidden Pony
Breaking Hearts LP - November 15, 2011 - Hidden Pony Re-release
Breaking Hearts LP - June 1, 2010 - Young Soul
Going Steady LP - Nov, 28 2008 - Young Soul
Songs for Pasquela EP - Aug 2006 - Self-Release

BIOGRAPHY

Fall 2012 sees the release of The Poet’s Dead, the third and most accomplished album to date by Regina, SK sextet Rah Rah. Building on the strong foundation of their last release, the critically acclaimed and iTunes Canada championed Breaking Hearts, this new ten song effort effectively captures a band at the peak of their abilities doing what they do best.

The Poet’s Dead, recorded in late 2011 under the production guidance of indie-rock recording geniuses Gus Van Go and Werner F (The Stills, Hollerado, Priestess), clearly displays that Rah Rah has truly fine-tuned the essence of the band and refined the maturity of their sound.

"Recording with Gus and Werner was one of the most rewarding challenges I've ever been a part of,” says band member Erin Passmore. “They understood how and when exactly to push us and I'm so proud of what we've been able to create with their help and guidance."

Lyrically, The Poet’s Dead showcases some of their finest, most direct songwriting yet and is their strongest collective step forward. From the self-reflections of “20s”, “Prairie Girl” and the album’s title track to the wistful hope of “First Kiss” and the twisted anything-for-love paean “I’m A Killer”, the songs discuss maturity, growing up and life in a rock and roll band from a group that have spent much of the past few years doing exactly that. These are songs handcrafted to make you think, to create dreams and to break your heart.

Rah Rah formed as a trio in 2007, originally created by Erin Passmore (vocals, drums, keys, guitar) and Marshall Burns (vocals, guitar). By 2008 they had been joined by Kristina Hedlund (violin, keys, accordion, vocals) and Erin’s brother Joel Passmore (formerly of Despistado and Sylvie) on bass. Later that year another former Despistado member Leif Thorseth (guitar) also joined the band. The band is rounded out by its newest member, Jeff Romanyk (drums, keys, guitar).

The members of Rah Rah share a collective mentality, taking turns taking the lead, both in songwriting and while on stage. The melodic male/female vocals and shared instrumentation traded off seamlessly (Erin Passmore and Jeff Romanyk both play drums, keyboards and guitar, while Kristina Hedlund plays violin, keyboards and accordion), plus a true level of fun throughout ensures that a Rah Rah show will not disappoint.

“The members did a lot of instrument switching and almost everyone in the band sang lead on at least one song,” writes Andrew Sacher of Brooklyn Vegan in a recent live review. “And just in case their catchy songs weren't enough, their stage antics are sure to be remembered, which included throwing "R" "A" & "H" balloon letters into the audience, shooting out confetti, and breaking open a piñata at the end of their last song."

Rah Rah was crowned “Best New Canadian Band” and “Best New Alternative Band” by iTunes Canada in 2009. The band’s songs have also been featured as iTunes Single of the Week and Starbucks Pick of the Week in Canada. The band has toured incessantly behind their previous two albums, sharing tours with the likes of Minus The Bear in Canada and USA, Wintersleep in Europe and Canada, and label-mates Said The Whale. Expect the band to continue touring heavily in support of The Poet’s Dead.

The Poet’s Dead will be released digitally on October 2nd and physically on October 22nd through Hidden Pony Records.

PRESS QUOTES

"Their set was full of upbeat indie pop songs culminating in pretty huge choruses, which often brought to mind I'm From Barcelona (if they had like, 23 less members). The members did a lot of instrument switching and almost everyone in the band sang lead on at least one song. And just in case their catchy songs weren't enough, their stage antics are sure to be remembered" - Brooklyn Vegan (NYC Show Review)

"Their music will completely set you on fire if you’re a fan of Arcade Fire, The Mekons, The Pixies and The Decemberists. With eclectic instrumentation, strong, anthemic guitar based melodies and harmonies that are sure to sweep you in with their energy, Rah Rah are one of the best new Canadian indie-rock band you’ll discover this year." - Bruce Warren, WXPN

“All six band mates displayed considerable musical chops, and there was something awe-inspiring about watching all of them swap positions and instruments in some inspired onstage version of musical chairs. Regardless of who was playing, all six clearly have a knack for well-crafted indie-pop, pairing clever lyrics and truly pretty harmonies with enough shimmering guitars to earn them comparisons to Broken Social Scene.” - CBC.ca (NXNE Review)

“Very accomplished despite their youth, Rah Rah play immense, poetic rock tunes.” – Montreal Gazette

Review

January 30th, 2013. By Matt Messana for http://www.popmatters.com

Saskatchewan, Canada band Rah Rah started in 2007 as a three-piece, but quickly doubled in size and these days they’re pushing double figures. They had some pretty good notices for their first two albums, Going Steady and 20121s Breaking Hearts, though we weren’t huge fans of Breaking Hearts here at PopMatters.

It’s both the blessing and the curse of a lot of large bands they’re known at least as much for their high-energy live shows as for their recorded output. There’s something inherently fun watching a crowd of people on stage running around madly swapping of instruments and vocal duties. But a celebratory stage show doesn’t automatically create a compelling recorded experience, and Rah Rah seem to be a bit in the ‘fun live band’ box at the moment.

Is their new album The Poet’s Dead likely to change that situation? Maybe. Certainly the album is a bit of a departure from some of their earlier material – the songwriting approach is a bit more mature, and the sound a bit fuller and cleaner than previously. On their earlier albums, Rah Rah sounded like a fun, ramshackle, slightly amateurish collective that was making songs for the hell of it, with everyone involved in most songs and the whole thing kind of lost amid a swirling wall of background keyboards, violins, and vocal shouts and singalongs. 

On The Poet’s Dead the band sound more grown up, both in style and content. Here, Rah Rah seems to have really tried to focus on making the songs, and the individual lead singers on each track, stand out from the fog. It’s a strategy that’s a mixed success, which serves to highlight some distracting differences as much as it highlights the improved songs and performances. In fact, it sounds to me like the band is pulling in different directions. Now, rather than a large, messy collective of amateurs, they sound kind of like at least two different bands whose tracks have gotten jumbled together in the studio, and everyone just shrugged and released it all anyway.

For such a big band, the sound of many of the tracks on The Poet’s Dead is actually surprisingly straightforward, with the standard guitar-bass-drums combo very dominant on most tracks, and less vocal interplay than in the past. That’s especially the case on many of the tracks fronted by guitarist Marshall Burns, especially “Art and a Wife”, “The Poet’s Dead”, and “Fake Our Love”. Those tracks mostly sound like what would have been called ‘alternative rock’ back in the ‘90s, especially some of the more country-flavoured bands of that era like Buffalo Tom, Cracker, and the Lemonheads. Those tracks are full of easy melodies, drawled Neil Young-inflected lead vocals, and deadpan lines. On a couple of tracks he’s even accompanied by thin, Juliana Hatfield-esque backing vocals. It’s all good fun stuff, if a little lightweight. That loose country-rock bent was present in Rah Rah’s earlier work, but wasn’t as noticeable beneath the more upbeat style and kitchen-sink approach to recording.

Those songs especially stand in contrast to the group of tracks fronted by Erin Passmore. Passmore has a broad, powerful voice with a compelling lilt that’s showcased far more on The Poet’s Dead than on the band’s previous recordings. It’s a good decision - in fact, all her songs are among the album’s highlights. The best of her songs is “Prairie Girl”, the lead single and a track where the band make full use of their dynamics. Passmore’s soaring voice, by turns bitter and wistful, dives in and out between walls of biting guitars, violins and percussion. The track has some has some nice lines too – “I am a prairie girl, straight to the bone / I’ll cut you off on the drive back home / Spend my winters alone” is strangely evocative, while “I can’t tell if you’re dumb or really smart / You’re just much happier in the dark” is delivered with real bite. The slow-burning “I’m a Killer” and album closer “Saint” are also strong songs, even if they don’t pack quite the wallop of “Prairie Girl”.

On several other songs though, especially “First Kiss” and “Run”, the band sounds almost exactly like Broken Social Scene. Big heavy repetitive riffs alternating with sudden gentle passages, languid echo-y lead vocals and sighed backing vocals, thumping percussion, various instruments thrashing away in the background. They’re not bad songs as such, but it’s such an obvious reference point for a band like this that it still feels a little disappointing, and Rah Rah can only suffer in the comparison.

More than that, though, the trouble with all these different styles in the same place isn’t so much in the songs themselves, but in the sequencing over the course of an album. Burns’ more conventional, country-inflected rock tracks especially don’t sit all that easily alongside the more intense tracks, especially those fronted by Passmore.

All this constant chopping and changing between styles I found occasionally irritating and disorienting as a listening experience. The band doesn’t have either the madcap energy and inventiveness of the likes of Architecture in Helsinki or the power and control over their dynamics as Broken Social Scene or Arcade Fire needed to really pull this sort of approach off well.

There are some strong tracks here, and there is real evidence of the band developing their abilities. Certainly this is their best collection of recordings so far, with “Prairie Girl” the real standout. But the overall result is an album that ends up being, somehow, just a little less than the sum of its parts...that said, take a listen and judge for yourselves.






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