Portland, OR-based indie pop band Radiation City released Synesthetica, their latest album last Friday. The group’s third album, Synesthetica is the product of a number of majors changes for the band, both personal and professional. Between their sophomore record, Animals in the Median, and Synesthetica, Radiation City switched labels and altered their line-up.
The background to all of this is that the band’s members found themselves in a miasma of interpersonal troubles. Founders Cameron Spies and Lizzy Ellison’s relationship was on the verge of collapse and the band along with it. The two eventually pulled it together, though, by exercising their control over Radiation City’s direction. As the band puts it, the couple turned the group from a democracy to a monarchy (or a diarchy to be precise). This allowed them take Radiation City in a unified direction; they curated Synesthetica‘s track list, found a studio drummer (Riley Geare of Unknown Mortal Orchestra), and picked a producer (John Vanderslice).
The resulting album feels like the culmination of the sound Radiation City worked on through their previous two albums.The band excels at finding the perfect point of contrast between space-age sounds and a fundamentally earthly sensuality. The synthesizers provide Synesthetica with a futuristic—even alien—quality to the music, which is set against Ellison’s powerful voice. It is her voice and its expressiveness that keep the record from flying off into deep space.
In 2012, a Portland alt weekly described Radiation City’s sound as “Jetsons-era doo-wop,” and even with the changes the band has made to their music on Synesthetica that description still holds true. Radiation City dug into that sound and came out with a streamlined take on that sound.