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The Radar Brothers

AUDITORIUM • Radar Bros.

Throughout his five-album, ten-year career with Radar Bros, songwriter Jim Putnam has been waging a covert war against the adjective "slow." The songs, he points out, are really not that slow, and he is right, the tunes on Auditorium are certainly no slower than, say, the average Will Oldham song. And yet, there is something dreamy and time-stopping about the best Radar Bros songs that goes beyond metronome settings. Even when these songs lope along at a moderate pace, there is a sense of nearly limitless space, of notes allowed to grow and evolve in the air, of drum beats kept stately, of sunny unhurriedness. Songs like "Hearts of Crow" may not be exactly slow, but there is plenty of time to think within them. 

That expansive sense of time extends beyond the individual songs, giving the entire album a measured, ascending trajectory. It starts with the distorted fuzz of Western guitars in "When Cold Air Goes to Sleep", its opening notes hammered hard but left to twist and buzz in the air. There's a hint of discord under the cotton-candy billows of chorus, a hardness under the softness that gives the song shape and discipline. Still, it's really not until well into the album that Putnam hits his stride, in the wonderful "Pomona." A hazy country rock fog hangs over its contours, all lazy contemplation and gentle regret. And yet there's a spinefulness to the chorus, a upward lifted striving, that mirrors its lyrics: "I beg for you to fight/strong currents in the night/Pomona forgives you." "Dog Named Ohio" is just as good, thoughtfully placed chords punctuating an undeniably slow drum beat. But it's slow like a vision, its meaning coalescing gradually out of a series of abstract images: a drive, a sleeping girl, a radio playing softly in the background. 

The band's members have mostly been in place since the beginning, Putnam on guitar and vocals, Steve Goodfriend on drums, Senon Williams on bass. Jeff Palmer is new this record, but his guitar work fits fairly seamlessly into the mix. The music has a relaxed, timeless feel, its clarity allowing each sonic element to float to the top, be heard, and then subside again into the mix. You can hear the drums, the piano, the bass, the guitars, the vocals very distinctly, though without show. No one is shouting. Everyone is present. 

The whole album has such a lovely panoramic aura that you begin to think that maybe Auditorium is slow in the same way that the natural world can seem slow. Think how clouds move across the sky or how flowers open. It seems slow to us because we're moving so fast. To the cloud or the flower, or, perhaps, to Jim Putnam, it's just the speed at which the world turns. • Jennifer Kelly  

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