Since being declared as Portland’s Best New Band in 2012 by local publication Willamette Week, Radiation City has survived and endured the trappings of that honor amidst the Rose City’s hotbed of musical diversity. After two well received albums, the band is back home to celebrate the release of their third album, Synesthetica. And you can join Radiation City at one of their two performances for their CD-release party March 19 at Mississippi Studios.
In spite of the recognition and growing number of global fans, the band has endured its own challenges, both musically and personally, including founding couple Cameron Spies and Lizzy Ellison Spies who broke up temporarily, calling off their wedding, while dismissing one band member. Additionally, only half of the group went to San Francisco to record the tracks for the new album. But what has not defeated them, has made them stronger.
Radiation City has, in fact, flourished with the release of their new album February 12. What is most apparent after repeated listenings of Synesthetica is Spies and Ellison have further refined Radiation City’s tenor, and elevated their richly textured pop that ascend to new vistas.
Yes, the space-aged doo-wop sound is still intact. From the easy floating sway of the album’s opening track, “Oil Show”, to the seductive invitation of “Juicy”, to the crooned dreamy lounge of “Butter”, and the trademark doo-wop of “Come and Go”, Radiation City mixes lushes pop that colorfully swings over glitched backing vocals.
None of which should be a total surprise given the definition of the album’s title, Synesthetica. This phenomenon is described as a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, such as the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color, something acknowledged by Ellison as her personal experience. Thus the concept behind Synesthetica. A place where multi-sensory experience is commonplace; where feelings and definitions blend and melt, and surreality becomes reality.
For all it aural glory, the first track released in January was “Milky White”, and exemplifies Rad City’s pop power in a sensually, soulful yet blurred world of indistinction, as Ellison’s soaring choral refrain exclaims, “I can’t be you”.
Just as fluidly, the band displays the chemistry between Ellison and Spies as the intro on “Separate” slowly weaves in like you were sitting in a 60s Parisian street corner café. With passively alluring vocals bidding adieu over an accordion rhythm that seductively transports the listener, the song transitions into Spies’ pragmatic side of the story. The track continues in a conversational call-and-response, and whose dynamics are further accentuated by producer John Vanderslice (Spoon, Death Cab For Cutie) infusion of swirling backing synths and vocal echo effect.
All in all, Synesthectica, is a sensual pop delight that will satisfy long-time fans and will certainly entice new listeners in Portland and abroad. Radiation City has embraced their challenges to create an outstanding album that hits pure pop perfection. Listen and be transported. Or better yet, come see and hear Portland’s vanguard of pop surreality.
There are two shows. A 6:00pm all ages show and a 9:00pm 21 and over show. Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 day of the show.