Photographers: Ed Mazzucco; Linus Johansson; Markus Lindehoff; Max Weiland; Martin Rieloff; John Bogvist; Aylin Gungor; Mathias Olden; Andreas Olsson; The Radio Dept.
The dreamy, fuzz-loving Swedes of the Radio Dept. built up an impressive amount of critical respect and a small but devoted following over the course of a career that often seemed as hazy, understated, discreet, and ephemeral as their music typically feels. Issued in the wake of 2010's well-received Clinging to a Scheme, which earned the band their highest profile to date, this fittingly titled collection takes a somewhat selective approach to the A-sides-plus-B-sides singles-comp strategy. The Radio Dept. are great candidates for this treatment: like any indie pop outfit worth their salt, they've amassed a considerable catalog of 7" singles, EPs, and stray digital tracks, alongside their leisurely paced (three in eight years) album output. Especially since much of that material is at least as strong as the stuff that made it to the albums, this collection will be just as worthwhile for newcomers to the band as for all but the most obsessively completist fans: true completists might, conceivably, already have most or all of these tracks, but more casual fans will be happy to note that, of the 14 A-sides on the first disc, only a mere six overlap with the albums. Those six -- sterling dream pop nuggets all --ÿare clear highlights here, naturally enough, but there's also plenty else of interest: the lusciously depressive "This Past Week," the late-2010 internet single "The New Improved Hypocrisy," whose melody is as sharp as its politics, and, curiously, an early cover of the Scottish folk song "Annie Laurie." The second disc of B-sides (which, incidentally, includes nothing from the group's two standalone EPs) may not host as many immediately obvious standouts, though there are a few definite keepers toward the end, including the tremendously sweet and tender "On Your Side," but it's arguably an equally strong listening experience, one which emphasizes the band's overwhelming preoccupation with texture (particularly on the several instrumentals, and songs with vocals so muffled they might as well be instrumentals). Since the As and Bs are segregated, but both sequenced chronologically, the two discs present more or less parallel arcs tracing how that approach to texture developed over the years: an essentially linear progression from rougher, guitar-based noise-pop to a more refined, more electronically oriented, cleaner -- though no less hazy -- sound (along with the occasional reggae flirtation.) It wasn't necessarily all that great of a stylistic distance to traverse, but it's certainly been a pleasurable journey. And while there are quite a few extant non-album cuts that might have found space on a more slavishly inclusive comp, what is included here is pretty close to perfect. ~ K. Ross Hoffman