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May 12, 2010

The Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme (Labrador, 2010)

The third LP by this Swedish group, and a very fine one. Since the early 2000s The Radio Dept. have been working at a brand of pop that mixes digital and analog elements, the end product coming out both hazy and bright, unique yet always familiar. Their influences are too often batted about in reviews, but how they work with those influences is what counts, and over the course of their three albums – 2004’s Lesser Matters, 2006’s Pet Grief, and this latest one – they’ve dabbled in various modes of guitar and synth pop, consistently coming up with good stuff.

This band’s melodies and sound are recognisable, and if you know the other records, this one brings more of the same. The differences to be found here are in the production level, which brings a bit of a bigger, brighter sound than before, and in the variety of the tunes themselves. The record changes things up over the course of its ten tracks, with plenty of the guitar-driven synth pop and moody melodies that the band seems to come to so naturally, but it also finds some new ground with a few big beats and rather upbeat sounds, and even a bit of dub. The lo-fi digital quality that characterises the group’s other releases hasn’t been left behind, though, and while this record is the most adventurous one they’ve put out, it’s also their best-sounding and most solid.

It is their best record yet, many are saying, and that says a lot, as this band has made a couple of great albums. Anyone who’s been waiting should find little to complain about here, as Clinging to a Scheme manages a balance between the guitar crunch of Lesser Matters and the sequenced synthiness of Pet Grief, mixing the two into the stuff of pop bliss. The Swedish pop proliferation of the 2000s brought a bunch of great groups to the surface – some albeit only briefly – and The Radio Dept. are one of the very best. The thing is: they don’t work very fast. If you’re willing to take the time, though, they don’t disappoint. This record is a case in point: well worth the four-year wait.

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