Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Album Review: Radar Brothers - Eight

Radar Brothers’ eighth album — simply titled Eight — sounds deceptively huge.

Thanks to a new six-piece ensemble, Eight’s songs are teeming with layer after layer of sound. It’s easy to sink into these pillowy walls of sound and lose track of time.

Lead singer Jim Putnam’s voice adds a drowsy sheen to each track. His passive singing is was really drives the easy-going feeling of Eight, although this delivery can take edge off of a song and feel out of place, like on “Reflections.”

The vocals can work as a fantastic counter to the billowing tunes. Like a lid holding in steam from a boiling pot, “If We Were Banished” gains a lot of tension from the mantric vocal line gently circling over the constantly rising guitars and drums.

The middle of Eight is a bit doughy. Melodies can be overly fluffy (“Couch”) and it sometimes feels like it takes forever to get to a pay off (“Ebony Bow”); however, the Radar Bros finish strong.

“Bottle Song” gives the instruments some room to breath which allows the ominous chords to ring and take root. “Time Rolling By” foregoes vocals until they’re need to push the song to its climax.

Closing is “Horse Down” which is perfectly balanced between intimate and grand. “Pick up the phone. Hear your voice. It’s a gonna be a long night ahead,” Putnam sings in the final verse, repeating the last line several times in a rare vulnerable moment.

In its best moments, Eight will surprise listeners with an odd relaxed tension, but between these moments the record can be run-of-the-mill.

Eight is available today, January 29, via Merge Records.

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