1. The Radio Dept., “Running Out of Love”
This Swedish duo’s first full-length studio release since 2010 was already this year’s most relevant album before the November elections; the morning after, as many of us recoiled in horror at the results, they posted a link to the track “This Thing Was Bound to Happen” on their Facebook page and, in retrospect, of course it was. The warnings we chose to ignore were loud and clear all along. On “Occupied”, the preceding track here but also a standalone single released back in Summer 2015, they sang, “It’s a shame / how people claim / to be one thing or another / When it fact it’s nothing but an act.”
Running Out of Love is essentially an album-length condemnation of the rise of fascism in Sweden. The opener, “Sloboda Narodu” (Croatian for “Freedom to the people”) is anthem-like and hopeful; the closer, “Teach Me to Forget”, ominously seethes with disappointment and contempt (they follow the title with the lyric, “Because baby you’re so good at it.”). In between, they ridicule the omnipresence of “Swedish Guns”, attempt to rationalize fascist motives (“Committed to the Cause”) and justify their own muted responses (“Can’t Be Guilty”).
Having drawn inspiration from both The Cure and New Order throughout their career, this synth-heavy record tips the scales towards the latter, although it often surprises. Reggae-inflected “Swedish Guns” is the modern equivalent of The Specials’ “Ghost Town”; “We Got Game” recalls early ‘90s house music like Inner City and Technotronic. “Can’t Be Guilty” could be classic ABC (albeit with far more subdued vocals) while “Committed to the Cause” mixes Happy Mondays-indebted dance rock with a just a touch of Toto (!). That last song might be the best thing they’ve ever done, but all of Running Out of Love fully registers both musically and politically. It’s a definitive album of the world we live in now.
Favorite tracks: “Swedish Guns”, “We Got Game”, “Can’t Be Guilty”, “Committed to the Cause”
“Committed to the Cause”:
“We Got Game”: