The website intothewoods.tv has a remarkable video of the band Radiation City performing their song “Babies” in someone’s living room. They’re packed in so tightly that one guy who wants to listen is standing outside, pressed against the window. The camera keeps close to lead singer Lizzy Ellison behind her keyboard. The rest of the band is behind her in the frame for most of the video, and at first it looks and sounds like she’s doing a solo project with some anonymous backup musicians.
But as the song goes on it builds in intensity, and you can see the band working together. The other players are clearly getting caught up in the sound. At a key moment, they punctuate the song with staccato bursts from guitar, keys, and drums while the bassist picks quickly on a high note. On record, this part of the song seems to come out of nowhere, and that’s not a bad thing. But in the video, everything in the song suddenly seems to have been leading to that moment.
Radiation City specializes in this kind of slow burn. The Portland band counts jazz and bossa nova among its influences, but there are a lot of other styles at work, too: notably rock and country and old-timey folk harmonies, but none of them quite as you would expect. In the song “Hide from the Night,” the band touches on all of these influences and throws in a noisy guitar solo, a weird synth, and some arty production effects. It comes off like a country band playing Hawaiian easy-listening in a David Lynch movie.
Moonbeams, the Pharmacy, and Not Machines also perform.
RADIATION CITY: Tin Can Ale House, Friday, March 23. 619-955-8525. $6.