A few months ago, upon hearing
“Zombies,” the first single off Radiation City’s new album, a friend of
mine compared it to Pink Martini. That’s unfair, but not totally
inaccurate. Like the big-money swing-pop orchestra, Rad City’s indie
exotica exudes a certain lavishness. Animals in the Median, the
quintet’s first album since becoming the talk of Portland last year,
conjures images of retro-futurist bachelor pads in its kitschy synths,
poolside tiki parties in its bossa-nova swing, and concert-hall luxury
boxes in its cinematic strings. Under the well-manicured accoutrements,
however, is superb pop craft: swooping melodies, lush choruses and the
indispensable voice of singer Elisabeth Ellison, who alternates between
resembling a sprightly Victoria Legrand (“Foreign Bodies”) and
Portishead ice queen Beth Gibbons come unfrozen (“Wash of Noise”). It’s a
reminder why Radiation City is the only Portland band you and your mom
can agree on—and why that shouldn’t be interpreted as a slight.
SEE IT: Radiation City plays Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St., with Social Studies and XDS, on Friday, June 28. 8 pm. $13 advance, $15 day of show. All ages.