Radiation City, “Synesthetica”
Since the band’s forming in 2010, Radiation City’s channeling of bossa nova and ’60s pop has produced a distinct dreamy quality. Their debut album, The Hands That Take You, set a fine precedent for them stylistically, but it wasn’t until 2013’s Animals in the Median that their sound began to blossom. With a little help from John Vanderslice (Spoon, Death Cab For Cutie) and Jeremy Sherrer (Modest Mouse, Gossip), the Portland, Oregon–based group’s third full-length Synesthetica tries to raise the ante again but just misses the mark. The quintet has traded its nostalgic sound for a synth-filled play at mainstream radio. The larger, more produced feel robs Radiation City of some of the charm featured on their previous records. With that said, the album does have a couple of highlights—including the vocal harmonies of “Juicy,” the cinematic character and soundscape of “Butter,” and the liveliness of opener “Oil Show.” “Come and Go” and “Milky White” can easily be crowned two of the catchiest songs the group has ever written and recorded, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Synesthetica lacks the overall drive, exploration, and charm that would make it radiant. There’s nothing wrong with trying to move up the ladder, but Radiation City needs to bring some unique ideas with them to keep climbing.