Features | Awards

The Almost Award for Getting There (But Not Quite Getting There)

By Andrew Hall | 10 December 2010

The Radio Dept.
Clinging to a Scheme
(Labrador; 2010)

It took the Radio Dept. four years to deliver Clinging to a Scheme, their third album, following numerous delays and occasional single releases, followed by more delays, followed by updates on label Labrador’s website that said little more than “the new Radio Dept. album is still not ready,” as if they were just as frustrated as we were.

Yet the Radio Dept. emerged, finally, with said album in February of this year, and it proved to be more than worth the wait. The band delivered its most concise and immediate—10 songs in 35 minutes—but also diversified more than ever before, experimenting with motifs borrowed from Service and Sincerely Yours’s nü-balearic successes popularized during their absence (consider the Thurston Moore sample that opens “Heaven’s On Fire” and how it sounds like something Air France might’ve worked into a piece of music, or the rhythm that drives “Never Follow Suit”). The finished product sounds both uniquely theirs and utterly in line with trends in Swedish pop.

Most importantly, it yielded the best song of their career, album closer “You Stopped Making Sense.” Johan Duncansson’s aching voice, its production that sits somewhere between a layer of ice and the inevitable thaw, and one of the most tasteful guitar solos recorded in years combine into something utterly vital, a pop statement that communicates no more and no less than it absolutely needed to. “I’m dying to hold you,” Duncansson sings toward the song’s end, and the feeling’s immediate.

All that said, these successes still didn’t get Clinging to stick to our year-end list. Which is unfortunate, because it’s really quite good.