Photograph by Max Weiland

A lot has changed for the Radio Dept. since we interviewed them in 2009. Last year, they delivered their long-awaited third album Clinging to a Scheme, which managed to surpass even absurd expectations, eventually becoming one of our favourite albums of 2010. This January, they released the career-spanning singles compilation Passive Aggressive, which illustrates the Swedish band creating some of the most accomplished pop music of the past decade, all while never compromising their seemingly impossible to realize musical principles, or as Labrador Records head Johan Angergård puts it, remaining “indie as fuck.”

I caught up with the trio during their stay in Toronto near the start of their first North American tour to discuss their sprawling obsession with pop, passive aggressive tendencies when dealing with press, and their insistence on having complete control of all releases. At the height of their popularity, I found the Radio Dept. constantly looking forward, restless to record, and tirelessly designing ways to piss off any expectations with their next, as yet untitled, album.

Daniel: Where does the band record?

Johan Duncanson: At home. At my apartment, Martin’s apartment, or we borrow a rehearsal space sometimes. We’re very mobile; it’s just a PC really. We have this small guitar amp that I also use live as a pre-amp that we plug everything into. We were interviewed by a Swedish magazine a couple of years ago called Studio, which is a magazine for sound engineers and people like that. They wanted to look at our studio. We warned them that they’re not going to be impressed, but they wanted to come anyways.

Martin Larsson: To our “studio” [Laughs].

Johan: When they walked into that room in my apartment they were taken aback that there wasn’t anything there. It was just a guitar, an amp, and a toy keyboard. He was asking a lot about the vocals. We actually told them all the way to the apartment that there was nothing, that we don’t have anything. They said “no, we’ve seen small studios, it’s cool,” then they were like…

Martin: …”what?” [Laughs]

Johan: It’s just a matter of taste nowadays, because if you know where you want to go with your music, you can get there because it’s becoming easier and easier to record at home.

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— , February 14, 2011    1 Comment

Photograph by Max Weiland

Concluding our list of the best albums of the year, today we bring you our top ten. Though the airwaves are currently plagued by some kid from Stratford, Ontario with a terrible haircut, these are ten albums that will have a lifespan far beyond 2010. As always, thanks for reading, we hope you’ve enjoyed visiting our site this past year as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. See you in 2011.

Released on 4AD

10. The NationalHigh Violet

Not much has changed for The National since Boxer, for better or worse. Matt Berninger still sings about drugs in an apathetic baritone, while Antony and Bryce Dessner layer drum hooks below guitar hooks below lugubrious three or four-note melodies. High Violet is a statement that the band have pretty much found their sound, and it’s very good listening, though it isn’t the high-water mark Boxer was. It features no ‘Fake Empire’-style polyrhythms, nothing quite as quizzically heartbreaking as ‘Brainy’; if anything, it’s cleaner and slightly louder than earlier releases, adding a touch more of Springsteen by way of The Hold Steady. The epic thickness of their sound is as comforting as ever. Clap your headphones on, dial the volume up, and lie back for 48 minutes on a road trip through your mind. Who cares exactly what a lemonworld is? It sounds good. — Josh Penslar

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— , December 24, 2010    1 Comment

The Radio Dept. have been active since 1995 and in that time have released two albums, countless EPs, gone through numerous lineup changes and experienced a roller coaster of hype due to their inclusion on the soundtrack of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Their new found fame was not met with outrageous antics or even touring, but with a prolific amount of recordings and one of the most buzzed about albums of 2009, the upcoming Clinging to a Scheme. I got a rare interview with the band and we spoke about their influences, production practices, and their political views which are coming into the lyrical forefront.

The Radio Dept. – Freddie and the Trojan Horse
The Radio Dept. – Bus
The Radio Dept. – The Worst Taste in Music

Louis: The band has been getting international attention ever since three of your songs were included on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack. The relationship between your songs and film seemed quite fitting. A nod to the past, in your case 80’s pop electro, and bright-eyed melancholy, in the form of lyrics, that is apart of every adolescent’s life. Tell me who are your major influences and describe to me how they manifest in your songwriting.

Johan Duncanson: There’s an unofficial webpage on the band, theradiodept.com, where whoever runs it has published a list of bands under the headline “influences”. This list is from a Radio Dept. interview or something, it’s four or five years old and consists of a number of bands and artists we were into then. Some of them we still love but I have a hard time accepting the way of approaching influences as something static. Something that’s there from the start and something that doesn’t change. Influences should come and go, leave room for new influences and new ways of looking at stuff you thought you knew or loved or hated. And not in a go-with-the-flow kind of way, but ideally in the opposite direction. Of course there are bands we keep returning to like Stereolab, Pet Shop Boys, Sonic Youth, the KLF, the Velvet Underground and so on because they’re conceptual, pretentious and arty. The best high quality inspiration however comes from unexpected sources, music you stumble upon, a record someone plays you at a party or from films or art. When you least expect it that’s when it’ll come to you. I can’t just put on an album like Daydream Nation, a record I almost know by heart, and expect to be inspired to write and record something. I don’t even wish it was that easy

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— , March 22, 2009    13 Comments

This year’s mixtape is ready for you to download. The two disc set is packed with 2008 favourites from all of our writers.

Download: The Ca Va Cool Mixtape 2008 – Disc 1

01. She & Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
02. Hot Chip – Ready for the Floor
03. Chad VanGaalen – TMNT Mask
04. Bloc Party – Signs
05. Mystery Jets – Young Love feat. Laura Marling
06. TV on the Radio – Family Tree
07. DeVotchKa – Transliterator
08. Wilco w/ Fleet Foxes – I Shall Be Released
09. Wolf Parade – Soldier’s Grin
10. M83 – Graveyard Girl
11. Albert Hammond, Jr. – GfC
12. Vampire Weekend – Walcott
13. Brendan Canning – Churches Under the Stairs
14. Cut Copy – Lights and Music
15. Los Campesinos! – This Is How You Spell…

Download: The Ca Va Cool Mixtape 2008 – Disc 2

01. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
02. Passion Pit – Sleepyhead
03. Born Ruffians – Little Garçon
04. The Clips – Space Kidz
05. The Radio Dept. – Freddie and the Trojan Horse
06. Bon Iver – Re: Stacks
07. Lykke Li – Dance Dance Dance
08. Portishead – Machine Gun
09. No Age – Eraser
10. Plants and Animals – New Kind of Love
11. Bodies of Water – Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey
12. Fleet Foxes – Oliver James
13. Deerhunter – Never Stops
14. Santogold – Creator
15. Beast – Ashtray

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— , December 24, 2008    4 Comments

Lykke Li

The year isn’t even done and already I want to make ammendments to my list. For instance, no Air France. What gives? It’s not perfect, not even close, but hopefully the rest of the albums will please the ears. There’s a lot of obvious albums here which you don’t need me to tell you to listen to, but they have to be included because they’re amazing. If you missed the first half of the list, you can check it out here. Without further ado, I give you the conclusion of my Top 20 releases of 2008:

10 | Lykke LiYouth Novels

Sweden’s newest indie starlet/semi-superstar, Lykke Li, starts off the top 10. I had a taste of how this album was going to be at the end of last year with the single “Little Bit” and she really delivered. Equal parts easy listening and indie dance, this album manages to be accessible pop and adventurous at the same time. This had to come from Sweden.

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— , December 19, 2008    6 Comments