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Performer Notes
  • Sometimes a change of scenery can give someone a new perspective, and traveling to Austin, Texas to record their fourth album has made an audible difference in the way Mystery Jets do things. While their previous albums displayed a charming fascination with '80s pop and electronics both old and new, Radlands reflects the drier, sunnier climate in which it was created. Keyboards play a lesser role in these arrangements, the melodies sound more organic and direct, and steel guitars and vocal choruses punctuate the tunes; while suggesting the band has embraced roots rock is going way too far to prove a point, there's a sunburned, burnished glow to the best moments here that makes it sound as if traveling to Texas was the same thing as taking the Way-Back Machine to Laurel Canyon circa 1972 in the minds of Mystery Jets. (Producer Dan Carey gives the sessions a comfortable, naturalistic tone that's a superb match for the material.) The group's stay in the Southwest is also reflected in the existential angst-fest "Lost in Austin" and the contemplative "The Ballad of Emmerson Lonestar," while "You Had Me at Hello" recounts a road trip to the Mustang Ranch in Nevada, and the sly, bittersweet tale of one jaded gentleman's evening with a hooker recalls the enchanting cynicism of Steely Dan's glory days. Radlands represents a changeup for Mystery Jets, but not a radical one; the melodic strength of these songs and the push and pull between the playful and the philosophical in the lyrics is in the same ballpark as Serotonin and Twenty One, and "Greatest Hits" is a top-shelf would-be hit single, and one of the finest examples yet of a pop tune about the post-breakup division of a shared record collection. Not a reinvention so much as an enjoyable detour, Radlands is a set of aural postcards from the Lone Star State that demonstrates just how much good a working vacation can do. ~ Mark Deming
Professional Reviews
Mojo (Publisher) (p.84) - "[T]heir trademark oddball wit comes imbued with greater emotional resonance and backed with bigger tunes."
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