Music Reviews

Radar Brothers Eight

(Merge Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

The latest album from the Los Angeles-based Radar Brothers will not overpower you. It won't floor you with its precision and it doesn't have any particularly catchy songs that stand out. That's just not their style, man.

What Eight does have is a soothing, mellow atmosphere sprinkled with some beautiful melodies and nice sonic touches. It's an expertly paced exercise in relaxation or deep thinking. The songs carry you along their meandering paths, and then an hour has passed and you're still waiting for the first song to end; the genius of it being how effortlessly it envelops you.

The album is all about welcoming the listener to a musical landscape that is filled with soothing low tones and laid-back beats. The vocals seldom rise up past the bubbling melodies behind them, and the entire album feels like an ode to chillaxing. However, behind the stoner-rock veneer, Eight hides a lot of subtle variety in these eleven songs.

Generally, the tracks here are patient and mildly melancholy affairs that may take a few listens to really pick up some of the ambition behind them. For example, adding a racket of cymbals near the end of Change College of Law helps refresh listeners (or wake them up) before the next track returns to a sonic stupor. Meanwhile, Horse Down could be mistaken for an early Secret Machines hit with its despairing piano combined with droned-out guitars. The entire feel of the song makes it the perfect addition to any rainy-day playlist.

The album is such an exercise in cohesion that there really aren't any standout tracks to speak of. This may sound like a bad thing, but then, there aren't any songs that drag the album down, either. Although there are a few moments of deja vu on Eight, with parts of one song sounding very similar to another, they quickly find a way to shake free of any type of monotony.

Repeated listens help showcase the little touches, like the sudden urgency drummed up at the start of Reflections or the haunting lyrics of If We Were Banished, in which singer Jim Putnam repeatedly laments, this wasn't supposed to happen today, over fuzzed-out guitars.

While first impressions may leave Eight sounding a little too uniform for some peoples' tastes, the album's complexities are revealed over a few listens. The end result is a very ambitious piece of psychedelia-tinged indie rock that rewards patience with some truly inspired tweaks on the typical slow-jam formula.