Swedes The Radio Dept. return after four long years with Clinging to a Scheme. Like their previous two albums and countless EPs of textural electronic-guitar pop, Scheme focuses on layers, atmosphere, minor chord moodiness and subtle rhythmic shifts. If you have yet to be exposed to the group — they’re not the most celebrated batch from the region — musically, fans of Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura and the entire Sarah Records catalog should find plenty to fall in love with. From the OMD-inspired pulse of “David” to the catchy and much blogged about “Heaven’s on Fire” the album serves as rainy day dream-pop for the brokenhearted while adding weight to their impressive catalog, and ammo for their cult following.
“David” actually debuted last summer with its own EP while “Heaven’s on Fire” has been on nearly every bloggers playlist for the last couple of months. Those songs are the undeniable catchy standouts that will hopefully draw some new attention to the act. Other rewarding listens will stick with you for days, or serve as the lead-off number for that mix-tape you’re going to sheepishly give that special someone who “doesn’t get you” yet. There’s the rhythmically urgent “This Time Around“, “Never Follow Suit” is like a lost ‘Madchester’ jam on Codeine and the soaring “The Video Dept.” makes a case for self-parody in name but also acts as a tribute to their excellent 2004 single “Pulling Our Weight“. Singer/guitarist Johan Duncanson’s removed and disaffected voice is the anchor for all of these gems. Despite the fact he carries a tone that can melt your ice cream on the coldest day you’ll insist on calling this “pop” (see album opener “Domestic Scene“).
My first reaction to the group’s debut album, 2003’s Lesser Matters, wasn’t so much the instant appeal of their careful mixture of dreamy electronics and guitars. It was more about the overall space and distance they create between the listener and their billowing sound, which they continue to do so incredibly well. The Radio Dept. isn’t tackling any new ground musically or lyrically here either. And do they even need to? They have an eager, die-hard fan base (guilty) and have no problem making solid, enjoyable records year after year. And like most people who have followed the band you’re still left with the feeling that this is music designed just for you. Clinging to a Scheme might be the album that prompts longtime fans into sharing them with the rest of the world, but why spoil it? words/ s. mcdonald
MP3: The Radio Dept. :: Heaven’s on Fire