The Illustrated Garden
Anyone whose favorite film growing up was The Last Unicorn will love this record. Fans of The Neverending Story and i will dig on Radar Brothers’ newest release, The Illustrated Garden, a sepia-colored walk into dalliances with imaginary friends and playing pirates in vacant construction sites. If you’re lost here, a) watch more cinema b) maybe your kid-dom wasn’t as creative (say: lonely) as mine. Either way, get on this record, stat. The Illustrated Garden has all the nostalgia and whimsy of optimistic '60s pop, early '70s folk, and plenty of the '00s beard rock to keep you all warm in your sleeveless wool jackets.
This record is a great example of how a line up change enhances a band, rather than derailing it. Additions of bass player Be Hussey and drummer Stevie Treichel, much like the album itself, sound effortless. Where some critics get it wrong, saying that Radar Brothers’ new record is too same-y, therefore no bueno, this writer accepts that when a group nails a genre, maybe we should let them ride it out for a while. In other words, give The Illustrated Garden a break. It’s classic Radar Brothers and it’s rad.
Highlights are many. Any song that sounds like a psychedelic animated adventure score is tops by me. Each “Dear Headlights,” “Quarry,” “Chickens,” and “People” fit this bill.
“Chickens” and “For The Birds” are The Illustrated Garden’s sleepiest tracks. Both are reminiscent of Codeine on The White Birch, but with more amplitude. This homage to birds serves the record well and demonstrates a breadth in the rainbow painted sleep rock landscape Radar Brothers deliver.
“Horses Warriors” is the album’s clear standout. Singer, and Radar Brothers’ mainstay, Jim Putnam’s vocals are at their clearest and most engaging. Oooohs and Ohhhsss hover in the back like good little angels telling slack rockers it’s all going to be Ok. Putnam channels America and Neil Young, and not just because he’s singing about horses. “Horses Warriors” breathes new life into the attempt to resurrect classic rock in a way that many (e.g. Ed Harcourt’s “Born in the 70’s”) fail.
“Xmas Lights,” “People,” and “Radio” do get mildly lost in the mix but this is bound to happen in such a non-abrasive, palatable record.
The Illustrated Garden falls somewhere between that stage right before drifting to sleep, a somnolent kitchen cookie raid, and a heat-wave euphoria. The newest release from Radar Brothers deserves heavy rotation.
More by this writer:
The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do
Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away
Trainwreck - The Wreckoning