The Radio Dept. – Lesser Matters

December 6, 2006

It’s no surprise I found this gem by association of a Sophia Coppola soundtrack. God knows that has happened before. The Lost In Translation soundtrack was a revelation for me, and it pointed me in the direction of My Bloody Valentine (can’t I just go one post without mentioning them?), The Jesus And Mary Chain, and Air, three of my favorite bands now. Hell, the disc practically slapped me on the face and threw me at a completely new scene of music. I haven’t seen Marie Antoinette yet, and the soundtrack hasn’t completely knocked me on my ass partially due to that fact, but it’s nothing to shake a finger at, that’s for sure. It should be noted that the double-disk soundtrack is just as varied as skillfully constructed as it’s predecessor, but once again I can’t really determine it’s worth without seeing the movie. This soundtrack is significantly more aimed at post-punk and stuff from the 80s, specifically Bow Wow Wow, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, and Gang Of Four. But the typically dream-pop elements are here too as usual, and some of the standout songs to me were dreamy little tunes from a band I had never heard of, The Radio Dept.

I soon found out that the group is a Swedish band that recently came out with a new album, Pet Grief, which I now also have. They are sort of dream-pop revivalists, but they have their own style, that much I’m certain of. I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head that they rip on, which is a pretty unusual quality for a band, that is, that significant an amount of originality. To be sure, this is the bands best album to date, their debut LP. If I were to describe the sound of the music in as few words as possible, they would be the following: dreamy, warm, reserved, honest, comforting. I probably couldn’t use less words. They are just that distinctive. The first thing that will stick out to any listener will be the rather programmed beats, the blanketing bass, and the quiet vocals. Considering how easy it should be for these themes to get boring in the span of a full album, the band makes sure they don’t need to repeat themselves and make sure the listener gets everything they should get out of this experience. After all, if you want to make a splash on one album, make it your first. These guys do, no shit in the middle.

But that’s not to say that this album is revelatory or anything. You probably won’t see any bands ever taking too much influence from the Radio Dept., but that doesn’t stop it from being as individual is it is. It’s a great indie rock release, fantastically comfortable, and not overly extravagant. The songs particularly on this album set the sound in stone. It feels very reliably sythesized, not too many big surprises or anything, and occasionally a very pretty ear-treat to make the songs glisten to their utmost. The song most true to the bands style is 1995. Starting off with a very synthetic beat and simple guitar strums, the chord progressions and vocal direction isn’t too hard to predict or anything, and the chorus is heartwarming and dissonant. A lot f the bands sound thrives on subtle detailing. There are various guitar parts to brighten to mood and synthesizers doing unobtrusive but ultimately impressive work. A cross-refference to this tune is clearly It’s Been Eight Years, which actually comes earlier on the album and refers to the time difference between 1995 and the albums year of release, 2003. You can hear the contrast actually, and this song almost feels like it is hinting at the things that it will later say in 1995 without really leaving too much left undone.

The track on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack is worth a mention as well. The somewhat more upbeat and fun Keen On Boys plays like a playful introduction to a day of mystical and dream-like fun. A combination of gliding vocal prowess and echo, layered guitar fuzz, and soft beats makes for an effect that I’m not sure the makers were readily aware of…When I first heard this song, I immediately thought of a steamy shower room or a sauna. But the lyrics suggest it might actually be about a gay guy. Listen to this one and you will hear what I mean either way. Where Damage Isn’t Already Done is an even more upbeat and straightforward song, and a lovely introduction to the bands sound after the opening filler. Two other favorites are Bus, a daydreaming suggestion, and Slottet #2, a wonderful piece of summer atmosphere. But the album never really misses a beat and stays really consistant all the way through, and each song is quite enjoyable and fun.

This is an album you can come back to and feel more comfortable and less bored with than your typical dreampop. The very nature of the music is relaxing and non-intrusive, and if you want to chill to some great tunes that aren’t unrealistic or depressing, this is your ticket. Really, try it out. Their new album Pet Grief is cool too, but this is clearly superior and more accessible. Give it a shot.

One comment

  1. wow, JAMC and radio dept. are considered rare gems for me too.

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