Personnel: Cameron Spies, Lizzy Ellison (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Patti King (vocals, strings, keyboards); Randy Bemrose (guitar, drums); Matt Rafferty (guitar).
Recording information: Ice Cream Party, Portland, OR; Tiny Telephone, San Francisco, CA.
Photographer: Justin Ouellette.
Before Radiation City began recording their third album, Synesthetica, they came very close to splitting up. After two albums and an EP, they were burnt out artistically and the driving couple behind the band (Cameron Spies and Lizzy Ellison) was close to breaking up. Instead of the band ending, the couple decided to start working on music again, this time taking control themselves. After a couple recording sessions, both with and without bandmembers, a new variation on their sound emerged. Slicker, more sophisticated, and with a bit more R&B mixed into their space age doo wop meets indie pop, the album turned out to be their best work yet. Filled with songs that crackle like the first bite into a lollipop and pop like the snap of a bubblegum bubble, it's modern pop at its finest. Giant hooks, sparkling melodies, and Ellison's larger-than-life vocals are matched with subtle arrangements to make the songs really jump out of the speakers in a bright but still very warm and easy-to-embrace kind of way. There is no brittle undercurrent or sense that the band is grasping beyond its reach; the bigness of the sound and songs comes off as totally organic. It's easy to trace where they were before with where they end up here. Just take the kind of sweet and tricky pop they were doing in the past, then blow it up like a giant, happy balloon because Synesthetica is the kind of record that will leave the listener smiling. Gently rocking tunes like "Juicy" show off both their vocal prowess and knack for a catchy chorus, the bubbling R&B meets '80s rock jam "Milky White" is a new twist on their sound that totally works, and a handful of songs are the kind that lodge deeply within the pleasure center of the brain. The scientifically catchy "Futures" is one of these; so is "Oil Show." The latter one-ups most of the bands at the time who were trying to blend radio pop, electronic R&B, and indie pop. If fans of Phantogram, for example, heard this song, they might have a new favorite band. The making of Synesthetica was a big deal for Radiation City; the result is a big deal to those who like their modern pop smart, fun, and with just the right amount of modernity. ~ Tim Sendra