Radar Bros.


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Long-running Los Angeles unit Radar Bros. have chiseled out their particular niche with steadfast precision over their tenure. Closing in on 20 years of ever-shifting existence, eighth album Eight offers up even further refinements of songwriter Jim Putnam's unique style, blending shoegaze guitar tones with rootsy alt-country sensibilities. Songs like "Disappearer" and "If We Were Banished" twist lazy yet harmonious Neil Young-styled vocals around fuzzy guitar tones, with just enough ominous psychedelic darkness creeping up from below to keep things from getting too sleepy. Without ever being too lyrically overt, Eight feels more emotionally reaching than previous Radar Bros. albums. Cascading Mellotron patches on the gorgeously slow "Ebony Bow" create a pictorial feeling, recalling the visual sonics of Sparklehorse or Wayne Coyne's open-to-possibilities songwriting with Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips. The rolling opening of "Change College of Law" evokes the soft-spoken grandeur of Yo La Tengo before taking a left turn into more subtly psychedelic time-signature changes and gently erupting guitar and synth jamming. It's a contained freak-out, and the amount of subtlety and control the group is exercising goes so far as to almost completely hide how intense the song is at first listen. This is true of much of Eight. It's not a grower as much as it's a bleak and flailing affair dressed in the clothes of a good-natured indie rock record. Every so often a menacing lyric or completely insane keyboard tone will catch the listener's attention before quickly recessing back into the wall of seemingly friendly noise. It's this secret-keeping sound that makes Eight such an interesting listen. The depth of the songs passes by unnoticed for the first several spins, but a world of strange detours and unexpected emotions is right below the surface.

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