“album of the fortnight” is a new bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span. this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction. next up: the radio dept.
america’s political climate has been so tumultuous for the past year and change that you’d most likely be forgiven if you believed this ominous instability was confined to our borders. it’s not. great britain’s exit from the european union earlier this year was tinged with nationalist, nativist rhetoric. prominent right-wing extremism has also resurfaced in germany, partially in opposition to an influx of migrants seeking refuge and asylum from their war-ravaged homelands.
to the north, a similar nationalist movement is stirring amidst a larger backlash against immigration; the swedish democrats, misleading moniker in tow, have recently made strides in the country’s parliament, providing structure and platform to an enraged, panic subset of citizens. the radio dept.’s first album in six years, running out of love, was crafted in response to this excess of fear-mongering, a well-measured retort against bubbling hysteria delivered that’s in smooth consonance.
i’m not a diehard radio dept. fan; to be quite honest, the swedish duo existed more as a peripheral awareness in my mind before this album cycle took hold. in recent months, pet grief and clinging to a scheme have become familiar bodies of work (lesser matters has yet to be digested), but the radio dept.’s seminal status amongst indie pop bands is clear and warranted. hooks are effortless, intimate; instrumentation augments the pair’s maximalist and minimalist moments with equal aplomb, trading guitars for synths and adjusting timbres within each family as needed.
more than half a decade away clearly was not a hindrance to the duo’s songwriting partnership; the ten tracks across running out of love retain a singular fluidity, from examinations of a nordic arms race amidst distorted, stuttering synth pads on “swedish guns” to the buoyant, trebly bass line found in “this thing was bound to happen” all the way through to the utterly irresistible vocal hooks sprinkled throughout “committed to the cause.” johan duncanson’s lead vocals are perennially pillowy and inviting, so much so that it becomes easy to overlook the gravity of songs like “slobada narodu” and his blatant calls for “freedom now” or the pensiveness that pervades the rather maudlin subject matter of “can’t be guilty.”
most likely aware of this inherent enveloping quality, the radio dept. do dedicate sufficient album space to confronting these political issues head-on (see the repeated hook in “swedish guns” over its aforementioned sonic texture and the steadfast, drone-like mentality that permeates “committed to the cause.”) running out of love already feels, as does the rest of the duo’s catalogue, like a timeless piece of work, but it’s also an inherent product of 2016’s turmoil, a beautiful collection of songs that strives to combat what is hopefully a political aberration, but sadly may become the new norm. ingest thoughtfully, with pen and paper nearby.