The Radio Dept.

TrackAlbum / EP / Single
Pulling Our WeightPulling Our Weight EP
Someone ElsePulling Our Weight EP
Why Won't You Talk About It?Lesser Matters
1995Lesser Matters
The Worst Taste In MusicPet Grief
The Idle Urban Contemporaries Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010
Bachelor Kisses Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010
Never Follow SuitClinging To A Scheme
We Got GameRunning Out Of Love
Your True NameSingle (Just So! Records)

The Radio Dept photo 1
Johan Duncanson, Martin Carlberg
(2020 promo photo: Andreas Olsson)

 

 

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The Radio Dept. playlist

 

Contributor: Lakshmi Hutchinson

Are they dream pop or shoegaze? Indie or electronic? In the case of Swedish band The Radio Dept., the answer is all of the above. They’re my favorite post-2000 band, coming out on Labrador Records but sounding quite different from their labelmates. Hearing The Radio Dept. for the first time, I immediately loved the mix of fuzzy guitars, washes of synth, and casually understated vocals. The core duo of Johan Duncanson (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Martin Carlberg (guitar, bass, keyboards) has remained the same through various iterations, with Daniel Tjäder (keyboards/synth) rounding out the lineup.

I’m starting my top ten with Pulling Our Weight, from the 2003 EP of the same name. This track sums up everything I love about the band. There are moments when you may be reminded of New Order, or maybe a Sarah Records band, but they always have a unique, atmospheric sound that is all them.

My next choice, Someone Else, also appears on this EP. It’s a beautiful little song; one of those that just gets you emotionally with the chord changes (is that just me?) and xylophone touches.

The Radio Dept. released Lesser Matters, their debut LP, the same year. It probably got the most critical love of all their albums, and many of the songs do have a more traditionally ‘indie’ guitar sound. The very lofi Why Won’t You Talk About It? bursts in with buzzing feedback and distortion, and 3 minutes later you’ll want to play it again. But if you’re expecting the rest of the album to be in the vein of noisy post-punk, you’ll find that songs like Strange Things Will Happen and my next choice, 1995, have a very different feel. 1995 is a wistful song that reminisces about missed buses and lost loves: And though I’m happier now, I always long somehow/Back to 1995.

My favorite Radio Dept. song, The Worst Taste In Music, comes from the band’s second album, Pet Grief. The album is more polished and cinematic, with programmed drums and Badalamenti-style synths. This track is the Radio Dept. at their most epic, with some wonderfully bitter lyrics about an ex’s new love.

Why would you bother to hang around?
Even for some time, now
There will be others to frown upon
If it turns you on

But he’s got the worst taste in music
If I didn’t know this I’d lose it

A Radio Dept. top ten wouldn’t be complete without one of the band’s gorgeous instrumentals. There are so many good ones to choose from (including a few album openers), but I ultimately went with B-side The Idle Urban Contemporaries. The city sounds of sirens and loudspeakers melt away to reveal a beautiful melody that builds up to a sweeping finish.

Not many bands can do the Go-Betweens justice when covering their songs. My two exceptions are the Wedding Present’s cover of Cattle And Cane and my next choice, this cover of Bachelor Kisses. The Radio Dept.’s slightly more uptempo take ends with an ethereal chorus of bells and beeps.

Never Follow Suit, from the third album Clinging To A Scheme, has the band experimenting with dub beats and features samples from the graffiti documentary Style Wars (which I highly recommend). Duncanson’s vocals are at their most effortlessly cool here.

Disputes with their record label delayed their next LP, which didn’t come out until 2016. Although political commentary had featured in their lyrics before, the rise of the far right in Sweden and globally figures prominently on the fourth album, Running Out Of Love. It’s also their most electronic album, with house and techno influences. It all comes together for the banger We Got Game. I saw them tour this album here in Los Angeles and everyone was dancing to this one.

The Radio Dept. ended up parting ways with Labrador Records and formed their own label, Just So!. My final selection is Your True Name, the first single released on Just So! in 2018. It’s a complete departure from the Running Out Of Love sound, a jangly guitar track that brings to mind late 80s/early 90s indie.

I know I’m eagerly anticipating a new album. I hope this Toppermost inspires you to check out more of the Radio Dept.’s fantastic discography!

 

 

“The Radio Dept’s 2003 debut album Lesser Matters has been hailed as the most important Swedish indiepop album of that decade. NME granted the band two single of the week accolades and listed Lesser Matters in its top 10 albums of the year list for 2003 (it would also later make NME’s album of the decade list). In 2006, Sofia Coppola featured three Radio Dept songs in the soundtrack for her film Marie Antoinette.” (from a 2015 article in The Guardian)

The Radio Dept. Bandcamp

The Radio Dept. YouTube Channel

The Radio Dept. Discography

The Radio Dept. biography (AllMusic)

Lakshmi Hutchinson is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Many years ago she was a college radio DJ, and she once worked at Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus. She loves going to gigs, making playlists, buying too many books, and hanging with her family and tuxedo cat. Follow Lakshmi on Bluesky and Twitter/”X”.

TopperPost #1,097

1 Comment

  1. John Hartley
    Jan 9, 2024

    I really enjoyed that Lakshmi. I’ve not come across the band before so will give further listen… they sound up my street!

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