Calvin Love's New Radar feels made for winter and the contrast of freezing air outside and toasty heat inside.
There's something about the lo-fi, sparse landscape of buzzsaw guitars, distant vocals, a drum machine and synths that sound like they've been collecting dust since the ‘80s. The sound calls up images of bedroom windows fogged from the outside cold, or hearing a show going on inside a bar while you stand, smoking in the cold. (These images all came to mind before I'd even reached the song “Cold Winter” or noticed it on the track list.)
The sense of warm vs. cold isn't the only contradictory feeling on New Radar. Love is playing with retro musical tradition using more modern instruments, and it feels natural.
“Treasure Hunters” has the slow toe-tap vibe of doo-wopping ‘50s and ‘60s rock, from the shuffling rhythm to the lyrics -- “Baby take my hand / Tell me I'm your man / I ain't ready to lose." It's sweet with a touch of something darker. The same throwback feel creeps up again and again, infused with a modern edge thanks to modern toys. The love-sick guitar of “Bring Back The Summer” is accompanied by some tambourine and a clapping rhythm that's just mechanical enough to sound more ‘80s and ‘50s.
Meanwhile, pulsing bass and synth melodies on “Magic Hearts” are a callback to the ‘80s (even with a reference to 1986), and the closest thing to vocals on “Echo” is a sputtering, droning computer generated voice.
Still, the contradictions come more in the way New Radar can make you feel. It's isolating yet enveloping, strange yet familiar. And whatever it is, it works.