Radiation City

Animals in the Median

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When Portland indie quintet Radiation City were named best new band in 2012 by one of their city's entertainment weeklies, their music was tagged as "Jetsons-era doo wop." There's some accuracy to that demarcation, and second full-length Animals in the Median brims over with indie pop played with equal parts kitsch futurism and undertones of brooding darkness. With a backbone of space age pop not dissimilar from the masters of mid-'90s throwback sounds like Stereolab, Kinski, and Stereo Total, Radiation City base the 12 tracks here on roller-rink drum machines, elaborate vocal arrangements, and hints of bossa nova sprinkled throughout. Vocalist Lizzy Ellison's soaring voice handles the lead on most songs, delivering the same streamlined springy pop and crystal-clear melodies of Life-era Cardigans, especially on relentlessly chipper tracks like "L.A. Beach" and "Wash of Noise." Leadoff track "Zombies" taps into some of the distant pop brilliance of early Broadcast, breaking into a more lush chorus complete with laser-beam synthesizers and billowing string flourishes. The updated bachelor pad vibes are cut with just enough West Coast pop references, as on the echoey acoustics of "Entropia" and the earthy rock of "Lark." Mixed in with the Jetsons-era sounds are enough nods to the Mamas & the Papas, Van Dyke Parks, and later Beach Boys material to bring the album back into an atmosphere slightly closer to earth. The glistening faux-R&B of "Summer Rain" throws another curve ball into the mix, melding Prince-like sensuality with Radiation City's already diverse palette, resulting in one of the record's deepest grooves without completely subtracting their already established futuristic pop schmaltz from the equation.

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