Show Review: The Radio Dept @ Mohawk

I’m sure if you’ve ever read our site, you know how much I was looking forward to the Radio Dept blowing into Austin on a crisp evening. My anticipation was pretty high, and for the most part, the band was successful in their delivery to a grateful crowd.

Photoguy Comment: During their set, fans would randomly raise their hands in an effort to catch the music. I love that feeling. It happened a lot. It also rained just after their set was done. That was cool.

Thoughts and B.Gray photos follow.
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Show Preview: The Radio Dept @ Mohawk (2.20)

Long ago, when I was really into buying soundtracks, I picked up the Marie Antoinette CD. Admittedly, I bought it because of the Strokes, but it opened the door to my obsession with the Radio Dept. At the time, my tastes were pretty broad, indie rock speaking, but this opened an entire different world to my realm. Their songs were always playful, rooted in this expansive bit of electronica, though they tended to experiment a bit more than the other things I was listening to at that age. What struck me, probably later than my first few listens, was the band’s ability to drape political content in this airy delight that was supremely rewarding. I’ve picked up everything I could get my hands on throughout the years, with Clinging to a Scheme being my personal favorite. If you’re new to the band, I suggest Passive Aggressive, which is a great compilation from some of their best 2000-era work. They come to the Mohawk Monday night, for what I’m assured will be an exhilarating experience. It’s fresh off some rave reviews for their recent album, Running Out of Love, reigniting America’s love for these Swedes. They’ll be joined by Brooklyn’s Germans. Buy your tickets HERE. Not many make music as grand as this, but when they do, you’re better off if you come experience it live!

Hear New Radio Dept.

radiodeptIn all likelihood, this track will be all over the place by the end of the day. The Radio Dept. are well regarded in all circles, though their latest release seems to be seeing some doubt as singles leak out. This brand new one definitely has me sitting on the fence. Vocal recording definitely seems fitting, in line with previous work. But, the central beat that begins the song is a little to large; I’m used to the band offering a subdued blend of electronica in their pop. All that being said, the song does evolve into a more fare from the group…filled in with little atmospheric notes. Dammit! I need Stereogum and P4K to tell me if this is good or not because I can’t make up my mind. You listen, and you tell me. The band’s new LP, Running Out of Love hits in October via Labrador.

The Radio Dept. Drop Indiepop Hit

radiodept-repeatedsodomy-560x560Interestingly, the Radio Dept have been rather active, with all signs pointing towards a new release earlier next year. That being said, they’ve dropped a brand new track that won’t appear, yet deserves your attention. It still holds true to some of the group’s trademark sounds, but if you’re asking me, this is their take on an indiepop gem. Subject matter might be a bit grim, but that sets it perfectly against the lighthearted tune the band have left you with. Really, I wish these guys wrote more stuff, indiepop or not, political or not, it’s always great.

The Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Sweden’s The Radio Dept. have had a rough go of things.  They’ve lost a few members in their history as a band, taken a hiatus and barely gotten enough press to generate mass interest.  However, with the backing of Labrador Records, the group are finally releasing their third album, Clinging to a Scheme; this will be the record that should solidify the band as a mainstay across the globe.

When you get the album, you should definitely listen to opening track “Domestic Scene,” as it does serve to affect the entire listening experience, if you intend to listen end to end (as you should!). Other than that, it’s just atmospheric noise, which has its point, but isn’t necessary on repeat listens.

After that, you can’t really skip a single track on this album. “Heaven’s on Fire,” the second single, opens the real depth of the album with a slow and steady beat, as guitars strum along.  There’s sort of a coat of noise lurking in the background here, as there is in much of the album, which might throw the group into a dream-pop genre; it washes over the song as waves would wash upon the shores.  “This Time Around” uses more of a coating of noise, like a second coat of paint, while the rest of the tune is draped in synthesized beats, but it’s the distant vocals that extract every emotion from you as you listen.

Don’t be fooled by two minutes of ambient noise on “Never Follow Suit.” There’s a gem of a song lying at the end filled with such beauty and simplicity that you can’t turn it off when the lyrics cease.  And this appears to be the beautiful part of the album, not that it all isn’t so, but the intricate picking of guitars accompanied by piano on “A Token of Gratitude” is absolutely magnificent; the additional vocals, though sparse, sound as if they’re recorded on an old answering machine, making the listening experience all the more intimate.  But just as it things go pretty, they amp it up a bit.  The one-two punch of “The Video Dept.” and “Memory Loss” show that The Radio Dept aren’t intent on just letting you sleep your afternoon away.  These two tracks offer a more uplifting experience, yet they still fit snuggly into Clinging to a Scheme as a whole.

Eventually you come to the holy grail that is “David.”  Its been playing in my player for months, and while it has a resemblance to current groups like The Big Pink, the hooks here are caught in the crosshairs between pop and soft atmospheric touches.  You won’t find many songs much more perfect than this one this year, that I can promise. All this leads us to the ending “You Stopped Making Sense.”  Here you’ll find the band at their most accessible, almost coming off like Robert Pollard in a dream state.  It ends so gloriously, and goes by so quickly that you have to go back to track 2 immediately.  That’s just one of the great things that makes listening to Clinging to a Scheme so incredible; you just can’t seem to get enough, nor would you want to because The Radio Dept. is currently on a splendid roll.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Radio-Dept-David.mp3]

Download: The Radio Dept – David [MP3]