To indie music lovers across the country, the countdown is on for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, held April 15-17 at the Empire Polo Field. With big names as Cee Lo Green, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Kanye West, and The Strokes performing, it’s easy to overlook the bands in the “little font”. Some of these bands, however, will surely be the highlight of the show and are definitely not to be ignored. From now until the festival, I’m going to take some time to review the non headlining acts.
Artist of the Day: The Radio Dept.
Deemed “indie as fuck” by their own record label, The Radio Dept., a Swedish electro pop band, has spent the duration of their career building up a fan base by mixing traditional shoegaze music with dreamy synth and electronic noise pop elements. Despite their success in the UK, they have remained largely under the radar in the U.S. The band’s relatively low profile is likely due to their sporadic output, releasing only three Albums and a handful of Eps in the past decade.
An on again off again affair upon it’s inception in the mid 90’s, The Radio Dept. didn’t get it’s feet off the ground until 2001. The band, consisting of Johan Duncanson (Guitar & Vocals), Martin Larsson (Guitar) and Daniel Tjader (Keyboards & Synth), released their debut album, Lesser Matters, in 2003.
Perhaps more raw than The Radio Dept.’s later works, Lesser Matters was the first of their albums to subtly mix music genres, creating a sound that was still very much their own. A mishmash, at times the album offers an ethereal quality of lo-fi sound quality, reverberating synths, and filtered vocals combined with distortion heavy noise pop.
2006 album, Pet Grief, showcased a slightly softer sound, trading noise pop for dreamier elements and cleaner production. The album makes use of programmed drums and 80’s dance beats in true Radio Dept. style. The guitar work is more subdued than that of Lesser Matters. Emotional, yet far removed, Duncanson’s hushed vocals detail his heartache, a common album theme. Lush and melodic, the album, as with its predecessor, warrants comparisons to My Bloody Valentine.
Two years overdue, The Radio Dept.’s heavily anticipated album Clinging to a Scheme was not released until 2010. Reaching 20 on the Billboard 200, earning a Swedish Grammy nomination for “Album of the Year”, and featured on Pitchfork Media’s 100 Tracks of 2010, the album was the bands biggest commercial success. More upbeat than previous LPs, there seems to be a glimmer of hope offered in some of Duncanson’s lyrics, yet he remains classically gaurded.
The band remains experimental by utilizing sound clips of random psychedelic effects and background voices throughout the album. “I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture”, a sound sample of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore intros in prior to an up tempo synth heavy jam, on album’s “Heaven’s on Fire”.
Incorporating the same electronic, post punk components used in their previous albums, the band demonstrates that they have managed to evolve without straying from the uniqueness that makes them The Radio Dept.
The Radio Dept. plays Coachella Saturday, April 16.