To say one enjoys The Radio Dept.’s music pre-April 20th 2010 would have said more about one’s taste in movies than music. Let’s be real: the The Radio Dept. was discovered by Sofia Coppola and featured on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack back in 2006. The reality, however, is that The Radio Dept. has been producing synthesized beats, breathy vocals, and ethereal melodies since the band’s conception in 1995—a whopping eleven years before they received any significant recognition!
The Radio Dept.’s third album, Clinging to a Scheme, takes the shoegaze-y band from one that relies on the popularity from various singles: “Pulling Our Weight,” “Keen on Boys,” and “I Don’t Like it Like This,” to a band that can be independent form its past success. Clinging to a Scheme is a musical success from start to finish. The record begins with a strong opening, “Domestic Scene,” which creates an atmosphere of catchy rhythms that sets the tone for the rest of the record and leads seamlessly into the second and strongest track. “Heaven’s On Fire” begins with a monologue sample from the 1992 documentary, 1991: The Year Punk Broke which expresses the group’s frustration with trying to break free from corporations’ chase on all that is creative and new among the youth culture. This frustration resonates throughout the rest of the album’s lyrics. While this clichéd hipster cry for help is as overplayed as a Miley Cyrus song, the band manages to bring sincerity and depth to this overarching, anti-mainstream phenomenon. “Heaven’s On Fire” is a breath of fresh air among its neighboring tracks as it is the most fast-paced and complex in terms of the dynamic differences between instruments.
If there is any room for improvement on The Radio Dept.’s best album yet, it is their potential for a more bold and daring edge to their finely tuned soft and synthesized signature. Now that they have mastered their catchy-yet-whimsical ambiance, I dare the Swedish trio to venture into a dance-y tune. It is evident that the band understands its style with three albums and several EP’s as practice, but a little challenge to progress is always welcome in music. All in all, Sofia Coppola will not be needed for listeners to realize they are “Keen on” these “Boys.”