Radar Defender's new 'Satellites and Airports' offers diverse, raucous sounds

Satellites and Airports cover art by Tyler Snell

Satellites and Airports cover art by Tyler Snell by Chance Dibben

For an act that self-describes itself as “lonely sci-fi nerd rock” Lawrence’s Radar Defender is unsurprisingly wistful. The band’s debut, Satellites and Airports, is full of space references, as would be expected from that description and its name. But as the band’s name might also suggest, Radar Defender’s music so far is about examination and scanning, drawing meaning from the different kinds of radars around us - whether they are actually machines or the sun or the sky.

As such, for all its spacey elements, Satellites and Airports is firmly grounded in a particular kind of loneliness and poignancy, articulated through withdrawal and nonchalance, even if lyrically the songs can approach cringe-worthy levels of silly and redundancy. Variations on space, animals, and visibility/invisibility play out through the ten-song set and the band’s narrow focus can become wearisome. But at the same time those themes can filter into potent metaphors, and the band pulls of great songs like “Visible Man,” a fuzzy song that explodes with the chorus of I want to / Be see through!

Like Grandaddy, with whom the band shares more than just a sound, but also a style and attitude (vocalist and guitarist Scott Burr even sounds a bit like Jason Lytle), Radar Defender is great at balancing introspection and expansive, noisy fuzz-pop. “Escape and Re-Entry” breaks the spell of its autumnal vibe with a raucous chorus and spastic breakdown. “Visible Man” likewise establishes a hypnotic and evocative vibe that is obliterated by its chorus that features heavy drumming by Austin Snell and sky-rocketing synths. Ambitious closer “Wet Blanket” begins with spectral ambiance and ends with a vaulting freakout.

What most of the tracks on Satellites and Airports have in common is a sense of proportion—the epic in miniature or the celestial and hugeness of the universe in the everyday. So while Burr’s slightly detached vocals and lyrics keeps the stakes low, they also give the songs a slightly perturbed display of humanity, that serve to balance the band’s more space-rock leanings. The end result is a damn fine album that wryly examines the dioramas of space and human perception.

Preview songs and purchase Satellites and Airports here: http://radardefender.com/


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