Sweden seems to be known for two things: Ikea and electro-pop music.
Swedish group The Radio Dept. uses lo-fi aesthetics, fuzzy synths and clean guitar licks to craft an album brimming with catchy hooks and warm feelings.
The Radio Dept., named after a gas-station-turned-radio-repair-shop in Sweden, likes to take its time between releasing records. After 15 years and only two records, it marks its eturn to the musical world with “Clinging to a Scheme.”
In the time the band has been inactive, its music really hasn’t changed much. The sound comes across as more natural and less electronic, but the lo-fi vocal recordings and song structure are the same. What has changed is the musical environment. Since its last release, the dream-pop-centered band has seen its genre explode with the success of Washed Out and fellow Swedish group jj. But The Radio Dept. works. It fits perfectly alongside these groups, instead of sitting on the fringes of indie-pop.
“Clinging to a Scheme” shows the band maturing in sound, but also conforming. The Radio Dept. once seemed content to write the music it wanted, but now the band sounds as though it borrows heavily from newer groups. The band sounds like it is influenced by its genre more than by its aspirations.
The Radio Dept. does handle the genre well, though. The syncopated percussion, layered synths and clean guitar sounds come together to create pop gems. The vocals sound distant and distorted, thanks to the poor production quality characteristic of lo-fi music and the mixing.
The Radio Dept.’s “Clinging to a Scheme” would have been astounding two years ago. Unfortunately, because of a saturation of dream-pop in the past 12 months, the album will be lumped into an exploding genre and forgotten with the next musical fad.