Radiation City – Animals in the Median album review

Right off the bat Radiation City transports you back in time with a signature lofi sound. Blending soulful singing plucked out of a fifties jukebox planted in a diner known for their milkshakes. They aren’t without signs of their anachronisms, there are plenty of modern sounds slightly hidden in the background if you listen for them, and an occasional intrusion of some pretty futuristic effects. Some of the riffs seem to be played in a way most people would attribute to a keyboard demo song, but not for long, as they quickly carve out their nook as a ballsier Belle and Sebastian. The lyrics, singing, chord progressions, melodies, and rhythms are all carefully tuned, and carved away from the chaotic jumble some bands try to fight off, without any clue that playing this tight and controlled was anything more than casual gestures.

Their laid-back presence gives Animals in the Median long lasting appeal. Its an album and band you want to keep around just to have at your fingertips the next time you need a ray of sunshine in a road rage laden gridlock, or a day where despite proper precautions you still manage to get a sunburn. But not all is illuminated in Radiation City, some lower key tunes present a more mysterious and darker sides, and others a reluctantly depressive apology. The honesty gives their songs its own specialty. Instead of adhering to the futuristic 50’s RnB they are willing to take jabs at new ideas without sounding like they are playing in a different band. So while you may miss the vibrant sound of “Zombie” towards the end of the album you might find yourself getting attached to others along the way, each with the sense that going back to listen again will be sweeter still.

If anything has left a bitter taste its their staple lofi effect that covers nearly every nook and cranny of the recordings. Either by through recording to, or mimicking the sound of old tape recording studios they’ve encapsulated themselves with a “Do Not Open Until 2013” label on the front panel. Where the singers voice would soar up above the volume of the rest of the band with a spine tingling flair it can get cut off and sound as dirty and down-low as the guitars. This actually works quite well sometimes so I’m not saying its always bad, I just don’t think its as core of a positive attribute to Radiation City’s ability to impress and also come off as retro. They would sound great with slightly cleaner recording but I get the sense that if they ever acquire some fanboys and girls they’d be contentious with that statement.

And they do deserve their share of fans. I was impressed here more than usual, and this album wont be leaving my car’s stereo for quite some time. I just hope more people find something to connect with here as I did, Animals in the Median is one of the more rewarding LPs to come out this year, or in recent years. I wouldn’t expect it to stop giving even after their next album, Radiation City has managed to make something classic, at least in their own universe, its up to everyone else now to find out for themselves if this exceptional album will stick around in their lives.

By Keith Roberts

Keith is a writer, guitarist, and hobby producer out of the Greater Boston area.

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