The Radio Dept. has been around for almost two decades. The music on their breakthrough album, 2006’s “Pet Grief”, was a euphoric night on barbiturates — sounds filling the cloudy ether with piano and synth vibrating out to infinity with tings and pings like sonar pulses. It was composer Erik Satie gone indie. Paradoxically, their sound was like some sunnier version of the shoegaze that was to follow. A precursor to Her Space Holiday. Gliding over the top of the band’s instrumentation was lead singer Johan Duncanson, crooning brilliantly or naively with a beautiful and stylish nonchalance. His lyrics are barely distinguishable over the music at times, his phrases falling so easily into the music like a sleepy head into a fat down pillow. The Radio Dept. use soft drum machine beats, whispered vocals, and dreamy sythn-strings to color their electronic music in the warm atmospherics of 80s-sounding pop — like some combination of New Order, Sea and the Cake, and the lo-fi fuzz of My Bloody Valentine.
Most of the reviews of “Pet Grief” were glowing, and needless to say, placed a great weight of expectation on the band’s next album. So what did this Swedish band do? Rush out a half-baked, mediocre effort? They waited and created for four years, before announcing the release of a 10-song LP entitled, “Clinging to a Scheme”, set for an April 21, 2010 debut.
Like their previous efforts, the tracks on this newest record are built on layering and atmospheric electronica. The music is still clean and harmonious. But The Radio Dept. have added a few more layers: The grooves are more hypnotic, the textures prettier, the sounds more dense. “Clinging to a Scheme” finds the band breaking away from the more conventional song progressions. The Radio Dept. created tracks that grow organically — taking listeners into unexpectedly beautiful arias of ambiance and height, like you’d find with Joy Division, TheThe or The Smiths.
The second track on the album, “Heaven’s On Fire”, begins with an old recording of Sonic Youth lead singer Thurston Moore talking to a group of kids about corporations overtaking the music industry. He asks a question, and then answers it himself: “When youth culture becomes monopolized by big business, what are the youth to do? I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture.” The song transitions into jangly pop guitar and piano, while Duncanson croons away. The song “Never Follow Suit” rolls gorgeously with a rhythm that sounds like Saint Etienne’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”. Check out the track “David” below to get a taste of just how infectious this band can be:
“Asleep for twenty years with this feeling, / but I was on your side. / And he’s spent some 20 years with this feeling, / of being lost inside. / He was lost inside, of his mind. / Just like I’ve been holding on for all our lives. / All our lives.”
“Clinging to a Scheme” is the band’s third full length album and will be released through Labrador Records. Check out the proposed album cover when you get the chance. It appears to be a video still shot from Vietnam, where American soldiers are “shotgunning” marijuana hits out of their guns barrels. The band consists of Duncanson, Martin Carlberg on guitar and Daniel Tjäder on keyboards.
The Radio Dept. “David”
VIDEO BELOW: The Radio Dept. “Heaven’s On Fire”