Little Radar Release First Full Length


The other day, I woke up charmed by the memory of a girl I hadn’t thought about in ages. In my foggy head, the fights and the falling-apart had melted away, and all I remembered were the late nights buzzing around East 6th and the blissful mornings lying in bed. I began to suspect my brain was playing tricks on me — of course, if you let a memory settle long enough, all the cream rises to the top — but nostalgia is intoxicating when it comes at you first thing in the morning, so I texted her. And we’re getting drinks this weekend. And even though I can’t quite remember why we ever fought and fell apart, I can’t shake the feeling that something’s bound to go wrong.

Souvenirs feels a lot like that. On Little Radar’s first full-length, thoroughly bearded frontman Sean Hale howls about past mistakes as waves of warm fuzz envelop the listener. The effect is something wistful yet pleasant, something decidedly nostalgic — not nostalgic like the way Sixties soul samples recall the era of their origin, but nostalgic like how filtered sunlight on a forest floor or the stochastic hiss of a tape recorder summon up a general yearning for a golden time somewhere in your own past. Featuring solid hooks, excellent spacey vocals, and textured atmospheric soundscapes, it’s an impressive evolution of the psych-rock sound they forged on their previous two EPs, 2011’s Kill a Buffalo and 2012’s Up in Arms.

Yet a nervous tension pervades these tracks. They jitter with paranoid energy. It’s more apparent on songs like the opener, “Wasted Youth,” with its sudden shifts, its modal riffs, and its Talking Heads-esque gait. Major-key psych-pop number “You on the Run” shines joyfully with jangly, angular guitars and fast handclaps, but it still comes off on-edge, as if the entire charade might come crashing down at any moment.

The dreamy, nostalgic sound-shapes present aren’t without purpose; lyrically, much of Souvenirs focuses on the way we deal with the past. Hale explains: “It’s an album of struggle and shortcomings, how they loom around us and must be addressed. Whether it’s the pressure of success or the fear of failure, we’re all haunted. These experiences become our souvenirs.” Within all the fuzz and filtered-sunlight sound there’s the notion that our memories become bent and distorted over time. These souvenirs we carry are immense, and it’s right that we’re shook up and weighed down by them.

There are a few magical moments on this album where the weight becomes too much, and the song snaps under nervous tension. “Siren” builds into an anxious mess, adding layers of spooky omnichord and keys over a frenetic groove. As the song nears its breaking point, a drum break leads into a quick crescendo, then an outpouring of joyful noise: freed from nervous restraint, the band churns out a delicious wall of sound as Hale sings the infectious refrain, “It’s the sirens that let me know.”

Souvenirs is available online August 6th, or you can pick it up (on vinyl!) at their August 10th release party at Stubb’s, where they’ll be backed by The Baker Family and The Calm Blue Sea. Until then, check out the video for “Siren.”

– Kevin Allen