The Radio Dept. – Pet Grief

March 26, 2007

I first heard Pet Grief around when it was released last year and for some reason I didn’t like it. Maybe it was because everyone I knew who heard it didn’t like it, so I kind of threw it on the backburner and never gave it a legit listen. But I put this in my CD player a few days ago and it totally opened up for me. What a great feeling, to play an album you thought was bad only to realize that it is really great. It’s true, this is a change for The Radio Dept, but it’s not necessarily bad. The biggest difference is in the mood. Most of the songs are created in the same signature Radio Dept. way. They all have programmed soft beats, wispy vocals put through the same effects that were employed on Lesser Matters and the two following great EPs, and some nifty synthesizers and shining guitars that make the whole production shine. But the mood here is now a little more contemplative and sometimes melancholy. I think it’s a matter of preference here, and I seem to enjoy this as much as Lesser Matters now. Lesser Matters almost had more of a happy go lucky down to earth feeling to it. Only given close inspection does this album really open up.

The first track, It’s Personal, may be a bit misleading. It really threw me off at first. It’s a midtempo melancholy instrumental that makes good use of strings that are seen through the rest of the album, and the beats are also very soft and relaxing like previous work from the band, all dressed up in heavy echo. But to be honest, it’s probably the saddest song on the album, so you can rest easy knowing that the mood doesn’t carry through. It would probably be alright if it did though, because this song is very good, but it would be a tiring album to listen to if every song was this lugubrious, The next song, Pet Grief, is a startling disconnection to the previous theme. I might even say it’s the best song the band has made yet, and I’m a pretty big fan of Pulling Our Weight and Against The Tide. The song starts out with a segment of extremely well subdivided beats and a breathtaking swirl of reverb that launches into one of the best pop songs of ’06. It’s a really touching spring themed tune. It has a fantastic bassline and an impressive lineup of strings as well. The lyrics are lovely and they pretty much speak for themselves; how does one best go about dealing with friends in grief? It actually answers the question pretty well.

After hearing just those two songs for the first time I was truly misguided. I felt like those were two of the most individual songs the band has ever made, and I was expecting a continuously differential record. What I focused on was how certain themes carry on through the album and the means of making songs doesn’t necessarily change all that much, and I failed to see the individual power in each song. The hooks aren’t as immediate as on Pet Grief, but they are still there if you are willing to give them a chance. When the sad mood returns, it luckily isn’t botched, because if it was it would probably ruin the rest of what the album had to say. This is a bit of a shaky structure as it is, but I Wanted You To Feel The Same is really genuinely touching. What seems to be the most popular song on the album is also a bit sad, The Worst Taste In Music. It is accompanied with an interesting music video, and The Radio Dept. is a band with an already outstanding lineup of music videos. If you have not seen the video for Pulling Our Weight, I really recommend you do. But once again, the album isn’t all despondent for these pseudo shoegaze revivalists. Every Time is a sweet pop song with as much sonic sheen as Keen on Boys, and A Window is an uplifting summer urban love song.

I’m just so… Shocked. I can’t believe I didn’t like this before. There is really only one comparatively weak song in my opinion and that is Tell, but beyond that every song on this album is as priceless a gem as any of the bands other material is. This album is as much of a joy to listen to as Lesser Matters and perhaps even more rewarding. It clocks in at a very short length, around thirty five minutes, but every minute of it is sweet candy. The Radio Dept. is one of the best new indie bands for dreampop fans to dabble in, and one of the most impressive acts to come out of Sweden in a while. And they are still at it too. According to their website, they recently canceled their European tour due to financial constraints, but they are also doing work on a follow up to Pet Grief, as of yet unnamed. I’d love to see these guys live, as I’m told they are really amazing. They have some free MP3s of their music at their webpage, including a full live show. This band is definitely worth checking out and Pet Grief shows some significant growth in the right direction, and it will surely be a joy to watch this band continue to make material.


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