Album Review: Radiator Hospital – Play the Songs You Like

By Marvin Dotiyal, Staff Writer
[Salinas; 2017]
Rating: 5.5/10

Key Tracks: “Lonely Road”, “Half Empty”, “Dance Number”

If “indie-jangle-surf-punk” were an actual genre, Play the Songs You Like by Radiator Hospital would be quite the perfect exemplar. Three years after their sophomore album, Radiator Hospital returns with a lot more passion and tenacity in Play the Songs You Like. As always, Radiator Hospital keeps their songs short and sweet and packs them with emotion and energy, making the most out of the two-minute experience.

There’s a lot going on in this 16-track album. The opener, “Long Distance Dedication”, pulls you into Radiator Hospital’s natural habitat. The song captures a warm, beachy feel that is a staple in their music, even if they originate from the freezing suburbs of Michigan. “Out of Mind” and “Old Refrain” follow up the same warmth with more energy, creating a lively, surfy-punk sound. “The Songs You Like” is where the title of the album derives from. The song mainly focuses on musical nostalgia and how artists tend to change over time, a topic that should be talked more about today.

“Pastoral Radio Hit” is a mellow tune that screams romantic insecurity. Frontman Sam Cook-Parrott has a hunch and reflects the state of his relationship: “I’ve been in your head, been on your mind / End up in your bedroom half the time / Feeling like I’m a part of your life / Losing you when I open my eyes.” The sweet vocal harmony between Cook-Parrott and guitarist Cynthia Schemmer help depict this frail feeling of doubt, gradually building up to the ending. The album later takes a break with an interlude called “Also Ran”, which constitutes mainly of a looping piano melody and Cook-Parrott’s soft vocals that echo through the mix.

“Lonely Road” is an upbeat, feel-good track with an infectious melody; it’s the perfect soundtrack for a sunny summer drive with your friends. Although “Lonely Road” may sound like such a banger, the lyrics deal with the fear of growing apart from people and ending up alone: “Dust on my bookshelf / Talking to myself / I wonder more each day if it matters / If I go insane, will we notice?” This song also has a slight pop-punk aesthetic to it; the main chorus melody almost sounds like “Recluse” by Midtown. Again, Schemmer’s backing vocals bring the final touch, along with her feature on the second verse.

Schemmer finally takes the spotlight in “Half Empty”, a jangly pop tune that is reminiscent of Best Coast’s sound on Crazy For You. The mood of the album grows more emotional, especially in “Love Story” and “Heart of Darkness”, where Cook-Parrott contemplates whether he will ever find love. However, they lighten up the mood in “Sycamore” and “Absolutely Positive”, ending the album on a positive note.

Radiator Hospital’s Play The Songs You Like has just about everything you would want to hear from a DIY indie band: emotion, sincerity, character, and energy. Play The Songs You Like may not show a lot of progression from their previous material, but the album contains enough originality to keep the listeners on its toes and enough moxie to sweep them off the ground.

Listen here:

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