Ra Ra Riot’s Mathieu Santos Shares His Favorite Things About Los Angeles

Hot off the heels of their third album release last month, this New York-based band recently took the stage at El Rey for their Beta Love tour with Cavucas and Pacific Air. Ra Ra Riot’s progressive (and very different) album has them on the road, but we caught up with bassist Mathieu Santos to find out a few of his favorite things in the City of Angels.

THE RADIO STATIONS
Every time I start to lose faith in radio, I find myself in a friend’s car, driving around Los Angeles, giddily scanning through all the stations, astonished at their quality and consistency. I mean, there are good radio stations everywhere, but for some reason I feel like Los Angeles has its own special thing going on. The funny thing is, I don’t even know what any of the stations are, but I guess that’s kind of the point—you just turn it on, and it’s hammer after hammer; a feast of incredible fringe ’90s jams, R&B burners, and pop classics. Maybe I’m imagining it, maybe I’m projecting a bit, but I just feel like L.A. has this incredible built-in FM soundtrack that doesn’t really exist anywhere else.

DRIVING AROUND
I suppose this is kind of related to the radio thing, but another aspect of L.A. that I love is the driving. Seriously! Obviously the freeway traffic is a joke of a joke, but I’m talking about the kind of late-night, windows-down, radio-up cruising that makes exploring L.A. so exciting. In most cities (particularly New York, where I now live), a big part of experiencing the city is scurrying around underground or packed into a taxi, sprinting and jerking around between red lights. But in L.A., there are these long, palm tree-lined roads, there are hills and valleys, there are amazing views of the city at night. Through both the radio and joy riding, I feel this real connection to the attitude and atmosphere of the city—something expansive and nostalgic, child-like and innocent, sun-kissed and down for whatever.

THE PALM TREES
I don’t care if they’re not natural; every time I get into L.A. and see those tall, skinny palms bursting above the skylines, I just feel good. They’re at once exotic and familiar, and are as much a part of the entire city’s identity as the herds of yellow cabs are to New York. I think when I first visited L.A. in my twenties, the trees were the link between all the associations and expectations I had in my head with the experience of actually being there.

AMERICAN HOCKEY
Though the expansion of hockey into non-traditional southern markets remains a hot-button issue amongst die-hard fans, you can’t underscore how important a role Los Angeles has played in the Americanization of what I consider to be the greatest sport on Earth. When the Kings acquired Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers in 1988, Los Angeles turned into a strange hockey hotbed: the sport began mingling with pop culture at large, connecting an entire generation of American youth to a new sports hero and to the game as a whole. Even though Gretzky never brought Los Angeles a cup, he essentially brought hockey to the region, and that’s arguably just as great an accomplishment.

IN-N-OUT BURGER
I feel like I’m picking a lot of obvious things here, but there you have it. I love eating in L.A., and even though the bars close ridiculously early, there’s always a host of pretty cool 24-hour joints around where you can score some good shitty coffee, some good crappy eggs, maybe some amazing matzo ball soup—but hopefully, if everything works out, a double-double, animal/protein style, with a strawberry milkshake. That’s a meal I can’t visit L.A. without eating.

BlackBook Tracks #25: It’s Technically Not Even Winter Yet

This week, I am saving all of us the embarrassment of what could have been a list of “Eight Hottest Hanukkah Songs By Jewish Musicians.”

Concrete Knives – “Wallpaper”

Go on, get carried away by the sweet melodies of Concrete Knives. “Wallpaper” is the first single from the French band’s forthcoming album Be Your Own King.

Ra Ra Riot – “When I Dream”

Ra Ra Riot are preparing for the release of third album Beta Love, and “When I Dream” is the second track we’ve heard from it so far. Frontman Wes Miles’ voice sounds more heartbreaking than ever, fragile in all the right ways.

Heems x Sufjan Stevens – “The Child With the Star On His Head”

In addition to having recorded a Christmas EP for every state of the union (or something like that), Sufjan Stevens has continued to prove himself as the most festive person in America by releasing a hip-hop mixtape entitled Chopped & Scrooged. “The Child With the Star On His Head” was produced by John Dieterich of Deerhoof and features the vocal talents of Heems (ex-Das Racist).

Darwin Deez – “Free (The Editorial Me)”

Lovable weirdo Darwin Deez is back with his blend of jangly guitars and programmed beats. “Free (The Editorial Me)” provides a first glimpse at his forthcoming album Songs For Imaginative People.

Parks – “Sweater Weather”

It’s past actual sweater weather, definitely so if you’re in Boston, the city that newcomers Parks call home. Look back on faintly warmer days with some charming indie pop.

Avan Lava – “Tear It Down”

A little disco bombast never hurt anyone, and Avan Lava’s infectious energy can’t be beat. Remember, you deserve to have a good time.

Sky Ferreira – “Everything Is Embarrassing” (Unknown Mortal Orchestra remix)

If you can’t get enough of Sky Ferreira’s Blood Orange-produced track “Everything Is Embarrassing,” Unknown Mortal Orchestra made a version that is nearly seven minutes long. That’s quite a bit of extra time to think about how the song’s title may or may not be your 2012 life motto.

FaltyDL ft. Ed MacFarlane – “She Sleeps”

Get your Friendly Fires fix as Ed MacFarlane lends muted vocals to producer FaltyDL’s insistent track “She Sleeps.”
 

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BlackBook Tracks #10: Just Chill

It’s been a long week, hasn’t it? Maybe you say that every Friday. Sit back, relax, and ease yourself into the weekend with these songs.

Django Django – “Firewater”

Kick things off with this hangover anthem from the London psych-rockers’ excellent self-titled debut album, currently available for streaming at Rolling Stone.

Phoenix – “If I Ever Feel Better”

This track from the French band’s 2000 debut album United never fails to hit the spot.

Peter Morén – “Social Competence”

The Peter Bjorn and John frontman gets vulnerable with an acoustic guitar in his solo project. Here’s a sample of his other side from 2008’s The Last Tycoon.

Ra Ra Riot – “Too Dramatic”

Ra Ra Riot have been laying low for a while, but hopefully they’ll be back sooner than later with more lush, string-heavy indie pop.

Johanna and the Dusty Floor – “Fishbones”

“Fishbones” is like the audio equivalent of finally getting sheets with a decent thread count and finding it even more impossible to get out of bed in the morning.

Chairlift – “I Belong In Your Arms”

This slice of jubilant dream-pop from the Brooklyn duo always feels like a breath of fresh air.

Chad Valley – “Fall 4 U” (ft. Glasser)

Synth-pop maestro Chad Valley is gearing up for his debut LP Young Hunger, and “Fall 4 U” is the first tease from the album. It’s nothing short of completely gorgeous and transportive.

Divine Fits – “My Love Is Real”

An indie supergroup featuring members of Wolf Parade and Spoon ended up being a good idea! Here’s the stark, captivating opener to A Thing Called Divine Fits.

The Cast Of Cheers – “Family”

Irish band the Cast of Cheers finally released their album Family on this side of the pond, and it’s a good one. The title track is all angles and jangles, with plenty of energy to spare.

Mark Zuckerberg Needs Your Help: What To Do This Weekend

Tonight my itinerary is as follows: grab an after-work cocktail somewhere near the L train (I’m going to guess Crocodile Lounge) and head over to Williamsburg to indulge in my dark side, the side that lusts for tacos and sour cream at La Superior. The restaurant rape and pillaging will be followed by the Ra Ra Riot show at The Music Hall of Williamsburg. A simple Friday night, but you can have a rager, if you so please. In fact, I would advise you to crash The Social Network afterparty at the Harvard Club, because lord knows they’ll need you. Or make a reservation at The Hurricane Club and sip from a coconut before you set out to harass David Chang at Le Grand Fooding tonight. The night is yours. But if it were mine, all mine, and I didn’t care about things like calories, or money, or sleep, and if I had the great power to manipulate time, here are all of the things I’d hit up this weekend.

New Openings to Try

The Hurricane Club For the Kitsch of It You may only glimpse snippets of it between deskside cocktail hour (every hour), but the Mad Men era was also the golden age of tiki cocktails, with Trader Vic-style bars in every city and town. This tiki joint from the Quality Meats peeps revels in a similar brand of inauthenticity. AvroKO did the design. Slurp booze from a coconut while nibbling ribs off a pu-pu platter.

Lincoln Bar Food Pair a splashy hypar (hyperbolic paraboloid, but you knew that) lawn in Lincoln Center with an ambitious pan-Italian resto under the command of Jonathan Benno (Per Se) and you get one hot rezzy. Hit up the bar for a quick drive by, and be the first to say you’ve already been. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Alphabet City New Bar Crawl image Bedlam The folks of Eastern Bloc bring forth stylish retro cocktailing amid stuffed bears and assorted Victoriana. Try the Bedlam Cup, with Pimm’s, cucumber, lemon, and elderflower liqueur while lounging in the ginormous main space, complete with dance floor, top notch sound, and Anderson Cooper (his BF is a partner).

Billy Hurricane’s Another hurricane trope, this bar happens to be the Mardi Gras–themed Avenue B answer to Hooters. Hooters in the East Village—it’s blasphemous! But the kitschy décor—Bourbon Street mural, porch swings, and beading—feels Disney-enough to have a gander.

Idle Hands Basement spot keeps it simple: Bourbon. Beer. Rock. Latter represented in entryway with music-flyer collage. An equally bustling spot, Idle Hands shares the space with Billy Hurricane’s, boasting more than 70 bourbons, whiskeys, and ryes.

Friday Picks Music

Ra Ra Riot Music Hall of Williamsburg $20

Hundred in the Hands Coco 66 $8

Avey Tare (of Animal Collective, DJ Set), Crocodiles, Kria Brekkan, Headless Horseman Glasslands $10

Events

Park Slope 3rd Annual Craft Beer Week 7:00PM Official Kick-off to NYCBW: Freaktoberfest $55 The Rock Shop Presented by Shmaltz Brewing Company at the Rock Shop in Park Slope, over 35 brewery owners will pour specialty beers at an open bar, while members of the Coney Island Sideshow offer special performances alongside local indie-rock bands, burlesque dancers, and DJs.

Dumbo Dumbo Art Festival Free With new Leadership and exciting venues, the multi-disciplinary festival will include visual, literary, and performing arts. The Dumbo Art Festival kicks off today, and will run until the 26th, highlighting 200 participating studios, galleries, venues, and arts organizations, countless artists, musicians, and performers with the Brooklyn waterfront as their backdrop. Check out: Bubby’s 7th Annual Pie Social, a giant bake sale that pairs well with art.

Long Island City Le Grand Fooding 7:00PM “Le Grand Yummy” $50 MoMA PS1 Entrance fee to the foodie face-off includes one flute of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, one Rhône Valley wine & pizza pairing, and one Belvedere cocktail, not to mention chefs like David Chang whooping up on San Fran chefs in this weekend’s NY VS SF competition. Proceeds from all ticket sales go to support Action Against Hunger. Through Saturday. Check out: David Chang’s Beet, Goat Cheese, and Walnut plate.

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Saturday

Music

Eels, Jesca Hoop Terminal 5 $27.50

The Boxer Rebellion, Amusement Parks on Fire, Augustines (ex-Pela) The Bell House $15

Titus Andronicus, Free Energy Webster Hall $16

Events

Nolita The Dumpling Festival Free Sara D Roosevelt Park Cookbook signings and dumpling sampling presented by Tang’s Natural. Benefiting Foodbank.

Williamsburg 3rd Ward/ The Danger Party 195 Morgan Ave, Brooklyn, NY Weird, as in cool. “Explore a candle-lit loft while performers let loose. Complete with stunning music, cheap liquor, and a moment at midnight that is abjectly NSFW. There will be djs, there will be bands, there will be free/live tattooing. Arrive early to take a dip in our fire-heated hot-tub and sip free chilled champagne.” Um, sign me up.

Sunday

Music

Merzbow, Xiu Xiu Le Poisson Rouge $20

Margot and The Nuclear So & So’s, The Lonely Forest, Cameron McGill & What Army Bowery Ballroom $15

Events

Upper East Side Soul Food Festival Free Lexington Avenue between 94th and 95th Streets Soul Food Festival will celebrate local Japanese dishes—or “soul food”—unique to specific regions of Japan, showcasing the rich diversity of Japanese cuisine beyond commonly known regulars like sushi. This festival will focus on the regional specialties of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island.

Greenwich Village Oyster Sundays at Hotel Griffou $1 As a nod to the historical romance between New York City and the oyster, Hotel Griffou on West 9th Street will be offering its guests an opportunity to renew their love affair with the bivalve on Sunday evenings. From 6pm to 11pm guests can enjoy local Long Island oysters for $1 each. Chef Jason Giordano has teamed up with several oyster farmers and harvesters from Out East to highlight some of the tastiest and freshest fruits of the renaissance of the historic Long Island oyster industry.

Nightlife To-Do List: This Week’s Events

Fashion Week is over, and with it, loads and loads of free booze. There are, however, a multitude of events on the agenda this week, some offering the promise of free and/or cheap drinks, some offering a fairly expensive brand of cool, and some offering reasons enough to try sneaking past the door without an invite: just like fashion week. While you’ll probably still be clamoring to get into Don Hill’s and the other venues that seemed destined for greatness this past week, these special events are worth crashing, dropping cash on, dropping by, or otherwise taking advantage of. And while you may not be able to see Courtney Love perform anytime soon, there are some insane shows scheduled for the music-lovers amongst us.

Monday Parties to Crash ● Barenjager Bartender Competition at Macao Trading Co. Skilled tenders compete from 7:00 to 10:00pm in the First Annual National “Fight for Your Honey” Barenjager Bartender Competition. The grand prize for these liquor slingers: a trip to the 2010 Oktoberfest in Germany. ● Swarovski Elements presents 22 Ways to Say Black at Phillips de Pury & Company from 7:00 to 10pm. Aside from the auction of 22 designer dresses for charity, peeping Carla Bruni would be reason enough to crash. ● It’s game night at Soho House! Play Candy Land, Yachtzee, and Jenga with other civilized folk at the members-only den. Ticketed Events ● Ne-Yo performs at Amnesia with DJ Bobby Trends. Admission is $30 ● NY Ministry of Rum Festival is happening from 5:30 to 9:00pm at Papilion Bistro. Drink and talk shop with other rum aficionados for $50. ● Alta Cucina hosts The Summer Kitchen, Panini and Gelato class. Date night alert—learn how to make authentic gelato, panini, and pizza at the Alta Cucina Epicurean Center. Parties for the People ● Sleigh Bells play Webster Hall at 8pm for a mere $8. You’d be crazy to miss this band for this price. ● Catch the Klaxons at Bowery Ballroom at 8pm for $20. ● The East Village’s White Noise is one of those awesome bars that closes its doors at 2am, but if you’re already safely inside, you can party all night (well, until 4am), which carries the connotation that anything goes. Pierre Stone and Ben Brunnemer DJ the Monday night “Fever” party: “that ol rock and roll and good people, no disco shit.” ● One of our all time favorites, Franco V, DJs along with Eli Dias at the Mondays @ Kenmare party.

Tuesday Parties to Crash ● Super-excited for the first US Scotch & Soda store opening in Soho at 274 Lafayette Street (and Prince). There will be complimentary beer, wine, and specialty cocktails by h.wood.tea, and music by Chairlift. Again, invite only, but at least take a stroll by. ● The Train & The Box New York celebrate their Spring/Summer 2011 collection with an after party with Paper Magazine at Avenue from 9:30 to 11:30pm with faves Matt&Maia DJing. ● Gansevoort Park Avenue hosts their official Opening Celebration party with The One Group, Michael Achenbaum of the Gansevoort Hotel Group, Jason Binn of Gotham magazine, and Steve Birkhold. ● Fulfill your dream of crashing a Martha Stewart party tonight in the jungle of the New York Botanical Garden at the reasonable hour of 5:30pm. Join Martha Stewart for an evening of mixology, and enjoy a champagne cocktail and herbal appetizers. At 7pm Martha will also share her secrets for growing and using herbs in delicious end-of-summer cocktails. Divine! Ticketed Events ● Showtime has their own rooftop, and for $25 you can enjoy unlimited cocktails from 6 to 8pm at Cassa Hotel and Residences. This will be the last hosted rooftop event by Showtime Original Series, so expect to rub shoulders with Showtime’s nearest and dearest. Parties for the People ● Disco Down is still happening at Happy Ending, and it’s still free booze from 11 to 12pm, and still no one is going? No, people are going. Michael T emailed My Open Bar to personally say that Disco Down is not dead: it’s been well and fine, and on the main floor of Happy Ending. ● Glasslands Gallery‘s weekly Black Majik Tuesday is pretty hip with the kids, thanks to badass local DJs and great bookers. Free vodka from 8 to 9pm on Tuesday nights helps with the hipness. ● Ra Ra Riot play Bowery Ballroom at 8pm for $20 admission. You should catch them now before their ticket price inevitably goes up, i.e.: the kids are talented. ● Pavement, yes that Pavement, hits Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield at 7pm for $38.50. As part of their reunion tour, they’ll be playing this spot all week.

Wednesday Parties to CrashBlue Ribbon hosts a bash in honor of their new partnership with Renaissance Hotels at the Renaissance Hotel Times Square. Taste the new “Classics Menu” from 6:30 to 8pm. Invite only, so crash with caution. ● IMPROVD opens their shop-in-shop installation with a cocktail party at Atrium from 7 to 9pm. Parties for the People ● Your new favorite band, AKA the Crocodiles, play Mercury Lounge at 7:30pm for $15. ● Bobo throws themselves a birthday bash complete with half-price cocktails and finger-foods from 7:30 to 12:00am.

Thursday Parties to Crash I dont know of any. Do you? Then comment below. Ticketed Events I dont know of any. Do you? Then comment below. Parties for the People ● Rock out to Simian Mobile Disco at Santos’ Party House. $10 is a steal for a sweaty good time of this caliber. Doors at 10pm. ● Gallery Bar rocks at their Mating Season Extreme party (whatever that means) with two floors of insanely awesome music: Dances With White Girls, DJ Messkid, and Jane Bang. Big draw: from 10 to 11pm, you can slam $1 tequila shots and $2 drafts. Then there’s a 2am open vodka bar. $3 cover, and snaps by The Culture of Me. ● If you missed Sleigh Bells earlier this week (for shame), you can see them open for LCD Soundsystem at the Wellmont Theater. It’s 35 clams and doors are at 7pm.

September Music Reviews: Ra Ra Riot, Of Montreal, Klaxons

Ra Ra Riot, The Orchard (Barsuk) It would be easy to dismiss the music of Ra Ra Riot as frothy chamber pop, but some serious heartache is folded into their optimistic harmonies. On The Orchard, their second album, that darkness is more pervasive than ever. Recorded in upstate New York, it’s clear the quintet was influenced by their pastoral surroundings: “Boy” and “Too Dramatic” bloom with dizzying simplicity, and “Shadowcasting” sounds more sunny than somber. But idyllic images of oaks and soothing coldwater streams are offset by lyrics that outline feelings of lust, resentment, and mortality, like the discovery of spilt blood in the title track. Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla mixed 9 of the album’s 10 tracks, but the remarkable “Do You Remember” comes courtesy of Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, vocalist Wes Miles’ partner in their Discovery side project. —Cayte Grieve

Klaxons, Surfing the Void (Polydor) When Klaxons’ Mercury Prize–winning first album, Myths of the Near Future, debuted in 2007, it was hastily categorized as a subgenre neologistically called new rave. Three years later, the British foursome’s sophomore effort strays even further from conventional musical taxonomy. Kaleidoscopic, echoing vocals are staggered between distorted guitars, resulting in an anxiety-ridden, 10-track odyssey reminiscent of Muse’s Black Holes & Revelations. While a number of the songs sound like sci-fi anthems (“Extra Astronomical,” “Valley of the Calm Trees”), there are also more pop-minded inclusions (“Same Space,” “Twin Flames”) and even a relatively tranquil ballad (“Future Memories”). Still, listening to the album on ’shrooms is not recommended. —Eiseley Tauginas

Jenny and Johnny, I’m Having Fun Now (Warner Bros.) Jenny and Johnny are the 2010 reincarnation of early-career Lemonheads with a dusting of Ben Kweller and Mutations-era Beck. This is a good thing. Rilo Kiley frontwoman and Saddle Creek icon Jenny Lewis flexes her muscles on this scrappy side project with boyfriend and longtime collaborator Johnathan Rice. On their eminently listenable debut, I’m Having Fun Now, the pair nails the mix of humor and emotion achieved by Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando on It’s a Shame About Ray, with 11 playful songs on topics as varied as running with scissors, the duplicitous nature of pet snakes, and the couple’s resemblance to a New Yorker cartoon. On the beautifully twee “While Men are Dreaming,” Lewis sings about the seductive utopia of our unconscious lives, while “Animal” finds Rice musing on the fine line separating man from beast. Clever, thoughtful, and romantic, it’s an album that reveals something new with every listen. —Victor Ozols

David Andrew Sitek, Maximum Balloon (Interscope) TV on the Radio’s David Andrew Sitek is a master multi-tasker. When the Baltimore-born instrumentalist and songwriter isn’t busy producing albums for Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars, he’s working on his own projects, like his new solo album, Maximum Balloon. With hints of TV on the Radio’s psychotropic flavor, this explosion of buzzy, borderline-disco dance tracks will be equally at home in Brooklyn basements and on fashion runways. Vocals courtesy of Karen O, Katrina Ford, and rapper Theophilus London pepper the diverse blend of rock and electro beats. —Kelly Johnstone

Of Montreal, False Priest (Polyvinyl) Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal’s unhinged frontman, has rocked in his birthday suit in Vegas and frolicked with the fuzzies on Nickelodeon’s Yo Gabba Gabba!, but never has he led the Georgia-based band to a studio other than his own Apollinaire Rave—until now. False Priest, Of Montreal’s tenth album, was rerecorded, mixed, and engineered at legendary Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood, and it’s masterfully complex. With analog equipment, geeky tweaks, and Freddie Mercury falsetto, it marches—like a baton-twirling majorette—across rock, disco, and R&B’s turf with upbeat, psychedelic purpose. It sounds, quite possibly, like “unicorns eating baby meat,” a choice lyric from their song “Like a Tourist.”—Megan Conway

Blonde Redhead, Penny Sparkle (4AD) Since the release of their 2007 album, 23, Blonde Redhead has made nary a blip on our radar. But after a three-year respite, the atmospheric rock trio is back and more mesmerizing than ever. Twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace coax listeners into a heavy-hearted dreamscape, transporting their already ambient sound closer to Freudian realms. Whereas tracks like “Here Sometimes” feature nearlypalpable drum beats and tender vocals, the title track is rife with My Bloody Valentine–inspired reverb. Kazu Makino’s entrancing voice continues to find the humanity in all that synth. —Hillary Weston

Land ofTalk, Cloak and Cipher (Saddle Creek) In early 2009, Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell underwent surgery for a hemorrhagic polyp on her left vocal cord. While we have no idea what that means, it was serious enough to silence the singer for months. What a difference a year makes. On Cloak and Cipher, the Montreal trio’s second LP, Powell’s voice smolders with newfound warmth. On songs like “Swift Coin” and “Color Me Badd,” aggressive guitars and precision drumming guide her to a cathartic crescendo. On the album’s slow-burning final track, “Better and Closer,” Powell coos repeatedly, “I need you,” and we believe her. Traces of Canadian indie rock confederation Broken Social Scene abound (Powell is a member), but the real credit goes to her surgeon—a genius, clearly. —Ben Barna