|The Radio Dept. 'Heaven's on Fire' Review|
|10-06-2010 08:24 | 0 comment(s)|
| Even as music from Sweden becomes critically and commercially recognized, many fantastic acts from the country still fly under the radar. A number of these bands reside on the venerable twee-leaning Labrador label, including the long-running fuzz-pop trio the Radio Dept., who have released just two full-lengths (along with a number of EPs) over their 15-year career. Their 2003 debut Lesser Matters was well received, and they landed three songs to the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette. But for the most part, bandleader Johan Duncanson and whoever's playing with him have been quietly refining their own soft-focus, shoegaze-indebted sound, occasionally adding drum machines or synthesizers for a slight change of pace.
After several unexplained delays, the Radio Dept. are readying their third album, Clinging to a Scheme, for an April release. "Heaven's on Fire" bodes well for the release. Duncanson's voice is still slathered with layers of distancing echo, adding potency to the song's twin sentiments ("When I look at you/ Heaven's on fire," "One look at you/ Now hell's on fire"), and the stately piano chords are no less affecting than they've been on previous records by labelmates such as Sambassadeur.
In addition to adhering closely to the Labrador sound, "Heaven's on Fire" carries the stamp of fellow Swedish indie Sincerely Yours as well, from the production clarity (a departure from the static lullabies of 2006's Pet Grief) to the Balearic note-bending hidden in the mix to the soft snare backbeat that adds rhythmic propulsion. Not to mention the Thurston Moore vocal sample that opens the song, the sort of musical reference favored by Sincerely Yours all-stars like the Tough Alliance and the Honeydrips. This sort of borrowing may not expand any horizons, but that matters little when, like here, it's all done right.