The Swedish group The Radio Dept. was formed in 1995 by schoolmates Elin Almered and Johan Duncanson. Martin Larsson, Johannes Burström and Lisa Carlberg complete the band lineup.
Their full-length debut album ‘Lesser Matters‘ was released in 2003 via a new awesome indie-pop label, Labrador. It was self-recorded in small studios and at the members’ own homes, with lo-fi production values, but the outcome was magical.
Trying to describe their sound, we can say that they balance between dreampop-shoegaze-indie pop/noise pop, but they have a certain attribute: their songs feature an excellent melody or chorus, while its coloured over distortion and the noise/fuzzed and hazy production and the soft ethereal feedback in their most part. The vocals are emotive, breathy, fading and gentle.
The electronic/acoustic instrumentation floats on a minor key most of the time which creates a charming, daydreaming melancholy that can be heard in the first song, ‘Too Soon‘.
‘Where Damage Isn’t Already Done‘ is a fast and cool indiepop firework. ‘Keen On Boys‘ is the first great highlight of album: “There’s a sun in his eyes/ It won’t go away/ I’m already dead”; noise-ambient synths, breathy ethereal vocals, driven by a euphoric innocent melancholy that floats in their dreamy feedback. ‘Keen On Boys‘ was featured in Sofia Coppola‘s adaptation of “Marie Antoinette” and you can listen to it on the film score.
‘Why Won’t You Talk About It?‘ presents a tense atmosphere, while on ‘It’s Been Eight Years‘, Johan sings in a melting voice:
“It’s been eight years
I’d like to travel through time
But I can’t do that
I close my eyes and someone is calling my name
I lean over the window pane
And in the distance I can just about catch a glimpse of us”
It is a fragile, emotive masterpiece full of minor melodies of loss and heartbreaking. ‘Against The Tide‘ is the classic anthem of this album, one of the best and more illustrative examples of The Radio Dept.: hazy and distant sound at the start of the song, rhythmic arbor over distortion and a mesmerizing extraordinary bass-riff at the end of the song. There is nothing more to say.
When I first listened to ‘Lesser Matters‘, the song that struck me with amazement was ‘Strange Things Will Happen’:
‘Today I didn’t even try to hide
I’ll stay here and never push things to the side
You can’t reach me ’cause I’m way beyond you today”
A magical synth-piano melody drives the song in a fantastic way into clear sound and double vocals (Elin Almered – lead vocals). You listen to it one time, and you remember it for a lifetime.
A few minutes later, the stormy guitar riff of ‘Ewan‘ explodes fuzzy, streaming with a crushing refrain; another great song.
Finally, ‘Lost And Found’ is the ideal finale for this album: calm, with a defective beat that ends with an arrestive, eerie, wind-like guitar melody. An unbelievable end to an unbelievable album, an album like a fading-feedback whisper, full of nostalgia and sweet melancholy.
…I’m really enchanted.