Mystery Jets – Radlands

Rating: ★★★★½

The boys in Mystery Jets have come quite a long way, staring first with their angular guitar pop and moving forward into a full-fledged pop group.  But, with all their success, the band needed a move to Texas for a different perspective, leading to their most accomplished album to date.  Radlands, despite some roots in Texas, remains a uniquely MJ affiar, one that shows the group far advanced in their songwriting prowess.  For my ears, they’ve crafted a pop album that hits on almost every note, from start to finish, a feat worthy of high praise alone.

“Radlands” opens the album with just the echo of a guitar, soon joined by Blaine Harrison’s vocals.  It takes a moment before you hear the slight introduction of strummed guitar, which then bursts into a full-band affair.  As the guitar rings, you hear Blaine take control with his soaring vocals, but then the group settles back down to the vocal/guitar approach again; few people are making such well-crafted pop songs like this. And it doesn’t just stop here, with the first several tracks from Radlands easily being called knockout punches.  You’ll find a bit of a Texas jangle when you listen to “You Had Me at Hello,” which features perhaps one of my favorite choruses from the group’s career.  Personally, I dig the fragility in Harrison’s voice on songs such as “Someone Purer.”  He can belt out a chorus with great strength, but a great deal of his power comes from his ability to reign that in when it’s needed most.  If you’re looking for a traditional pop moment with verse chorus verse chorus, just give this track a listen to find yourself pure pop gold–it even has some “ooh oohs.”

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Mystery Jets is that while there’s some elements of high brow music, they still remain youthful and playful.  This album’s playfullness comes via “Greatest Hits.” It’s a song for writers, answering the age old question of the influences for the band as a whole; at one point, the group gives a nod to Neutral Milk Hotel, Belle and Sebastian, The Kinks and the Minutemen all in a twenty-second span.  There’s whimsy all over these tracks, which is one reason why I think the group writes some of the best pop tunes around–they’re songwriting is serious, but their heart still says music should be fun. Radlands also indicates the band’s willing to takes risks, especially when you look at the duet between Sophie Rose and Blaine.  It’s definitely a tune that seems influenced by the group’s recording in Texas, and like all songs on this record, it succeeds; it’s clever, and yet heartfelt. 

Sitting here writing this review, I’m trying to think of how to include every single song in this review, as I know I left off some hits like “Sister Everett.” But, it’s probably too long-winded to try and touch on all the highlights of this album, although  I easily could do so.  Radlands is one of the best simple pop albums to come my way in a long time.  There’s no spectacle, there’s no hype, it’s just great songwriting wrapped up in the perfect way.  For this reason, and a ton of others, Mystery Jets remain high upon my list of best pop groups; cheers to you lads.


Download: Mystery Jets – Someone Purer [MP3]

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