Ra Ra Riot The Rhumb Line (Barsuk) The title of Ra Ra Riot's debut full-length, The Rhumb Line, is a nautical term, and there's a definite oceanic feel. But it's clear that—unlike other string-heavy collectives that use the nautical to quite literal ends (read: British Sea Power)—the seas exist for Ra Ra Riot as a metaphor for the natural ebb and flow of young life. As such, The Rhumb Line is very much a solemn record (with a few exceptions) despite its bouncy backbeats. That makes sense; last summer, the sextet's 23-year-old drummer, John Pike, was found dead after apparently drowning late one night off the coast of Massachusetts. Given that much of The Rhumb Line comprises songs that Pike helped write and that the band has earned consistent praise for in its frenetic live sets, the somber feel seems somewhat ironic. Or perhaps cathartic: This effort, produced by Ryan Hadlock, is undoubtedly a more polished product than the group's 2007 eponymous EP. Lush standouts "Ghost Under Rocks," "Can You Tell," and "Dying Is Fine" provide deeper meaning the second time around; new effort "Suspended in Gaffa" similarly fits nicely in the package. But oddly, the strongest effort is the peppiest of the bunch: "Too Too Too Fast" is a poppy affair more suited to the band's energetic live show. PETE FREEDMAN Ra Ra Riot plays King Cobra, 916 Pike St., www.kingcobraseattle.com. $12. 8 p.m. Sat., Sept. 20. N.E.R.D Seeing Sounds (Interscope) N.E.R.D's third album is the compact-disc equivalent of an ad campaign trying to appeal to the Red Bull/BlackBerry generation. "We gotta make it passionate," you can almost hear Pharrell telling the guys in the studio, "and retro! And political! You know, some really fucked-up crazy awesome nuts shit!" And so we get a song to bash Bush by ("Time for Some Action"), a track to snort coke off supermodels by ("Everyone Nose") and a "thoughtful" Beatlesque ballad ("Sooner or Later") to impress the left-wing Victoria's Secret babe on the ride home. The group's moniker has never been more appropriate: Seeing Sounds is all technique, no soul. Every sampler-tweaked and computer-manipulated moment feels micromanaged. Turns out human emotion cannot be created with ProTools. BEN WESTHOFF N.E.R.D plays Showbox SODO, 1700 First Ave. S., 652-0444, www.showboxonline.com. $37.50 adv./$40 DOS. All ages. 8 p.m. Thurs., Sept. 18.