The Radio Dept, Lesser Matters

Too many bands are obsessed with sounding “new” and “different,” causing them to instead sound “insincere” and “bad.” While the fear of being cliched has produced much of indie music’s greatest works, it is always refreshing to see a band that relishes in the great music of the past, while still pushing the limits of melodic expression forward.

The Radio Dept. are a Swedish group who pillage the best of ’90s rock and transform it into a modern electronic ethereal experience. Imagine Loveless and The Soft Bulletin swirled together with The Postal Service and M83. And through all the reverb, static, electronic noises and sublime singing emerges the most beautiful record of 2004 you never heard.

Lesser Matters was actually released in 2003 but received its official U.S. release in 2004, and the band has since released multiple EPs while working hard on a follow-up record.

From the get-go you will hear the influences. The most obvious one is My Bloody Valentine as the Dept. channels the fuzzy, distant sound that Loveless made famous. “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done” utilizes the shoe-gaze aesthetic to perfection while sounding faintly like the Lips’ “Race for the Prize.”

Yet while bands like M83 have taken the same style into the stratosphere of electronic genius, the Radio Dept. ground the static in indie rock basics. They throw in a great song like “Bus” which has a Yeah Yeah Yeah’s guitar floating in the background of a fairly straightforward progression.

The record slowly gains steam before breaking out into genius-territory on three of the final tracks. “Strange Things Will Happen” has the best melody on the CD and features an awesome guest female vocalist, while “Ewan” is the band’s most fully-realized piece of work (despite being under 3 minutes).

With “Lost and Found,” the album closes on an epic high: a flutter of drums, a massive guitar, fuzzy little noises and lead vocalist Johan Duncanson purring through the haze with the utmost sincerity, “I’m buried in the lost and found,” before floating away.

Lesser Matters is a classic album that has somehow been buried for over a year, just waiting to be found. Discovering stuff like this is why I love music.

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