Monday, March 05, 2007

Lonely iPod

The best place in the world to listen to The Radio Dept's Pet Grief

The Radio Dept. is music for traveling to. Preferably by train; no bullet train, mind you, but a reasonably old one, coasting through fields, the odd township. Then, the city.

There are tracks set in the countryside and the city, sometimes simultaneously. On Pet Grief, it’s not just the inclusions of recordings of trains running over and over tracks; tracks, on the album, tracks lining the countryside. At various points throughout Pet Grief, these recordings work seamlessly. But it’s not merely this that makes it so perfectly suited to trains. It's flowing, effortless, and a little pastoral, despite its reliance on electronic instruments. There’s heart being transported. Their's is a fluid, forward motion, all the way.

Yes, most definitely by train. There was one particular time where I listened to Pet Grief: an intercity train, on the way back from a country town in New South Wales, Australia. Winter, or Spring, or somewhere in between. The trip was no bleak, red dirt filled affair, but rather, small town after small town, ramshackle in various ways, but quaint, more than anything. Fields and fields, farms; not overly green or luscious terrain, but vast, sprawling. Anyway, it was perfect. I gazed out the train window, filled with whimsy, aware of the cliché at hand, but luckily, all cynicism removed for the record’s duration.

It works in Versaille, too, it seems, from tracks that are weaved into scenes in Marie Antoinette. Sofia Coppola is clearly interested in The Radio Dept.’s ability to transport. Songs from Pet Grief feature a couple of times in transitionary scenes: cuts to horses and carriages, scenes of transportation, physical and otherwise. Paddocks in the background, low hanging willows, feather-weight synths padding along like those hooves on distant gravel. It’s the way these songs start, vague hints of what is to come, subtle and gradual.

I’m not sure whether The Radio Dept. had this particular tone in mind with Pet Grief. It seems possible, though. A tangent, perhaps, but in Sofia Coppola’s interest in the idea of coming of age, of being unsure what’s to come next, The Radio Dept. seems a useful reference point. The broad notion of coming of age in terms of her past three films (which she perceives as a directorial trilogy, a theme shared across all three) seems similar to the aesthetic of the Swedish band whose music is always set firmly in pop terrain.

Both her and The Radio Dept. share a naivety, a youthful spirit for a journey. A cliché for some, perhaps: there’s melodrama, finding oneself and all that. But it's necessary, still, both in terms of pop and music, and traveling and roaming.

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