[POST-WHATEVER] Moody, trip-hop-inspired indie pop. That’s what I’d call the music on Radiation City’s new full-length, The Hands That Take You. The local trio, which includes members of genre-bending atmospheric pop outfits Spesus Christ and Soap Collectors, is working its way from Portland’s basement scene to surface-level clubs and helping redefine the Portland sound in the process. Or making it harder to define.
Hands sounds familiar in slices—one can almost make out a little Jarvis-less Pulp on opener “Babies”; “Salsaness” bears a strange resemblance to the Cardigans’ “Lovefool”; “Park” is a trippy vocal-exercise pop track reminiscent of early Shins—and one gets the feeling that the band purposefully indulges its own breadth. When Cameron Spies slips into his best lounge-singer voice and tumbles out the words “I am yours but I am not your man” on “Phantom Lady,” one gets the distinct feeling that he’s playing Jim Morrison for a verse—and loving every second of it.
Despite all the fun Radiation City has, though, it’s an album you have to take seriously. The disc is beautifully produced: Its blips and bleeps blend seamlessly with foggy vocal filters and reverb-drenched guitar to make something creepy and affecting in the same moment. The clarity of tone is especially striking on “Construction,” the album’s spiritual closer (only a brief instrumental buffers it from ending the disc) and a fine showcase for some of Lizzy Ellison’s more straightforward crooning.
When taken alone,
Radiation City is one of Portland’s more polished and promising young
acts. But the band also represents a larger, encouraging shift in local
music: It’s one in a new generation of local acts—and labels like Apes
Tapes—that don’t care much for the longstanding walls between slow
acoustic pop, dance music, experimental electronic music and
distortion-fueled rock. And, really, it’s about time those walls fell
GO: Radiation City releases The Hands That Take You on Monday, Feb. 28, at Mississippi Studios, with the Woolen Men and Support Force. 9 pm. Free. 21+.