The inspiration for Radiation City’s newest output stems from an old piano. The piano has lived in drummer Randy Bemrose's basement for eons. It's old, cumbersome, and on it's last legs. The band used sounds from the piano throughout the recording of this new EP... not just the keys though, the clicks and clacks from the body, the slamming of the lid, and virtually every other sound you can imagine making on the piano. After they were finished, the piano was beat up, out of tune, and falling apart. Having used the old piano of all it's worth, and as a celebration of an intense year, Radiation City engaged in the ceremonial destruction of the old piano documented on the first single’s video, “Find it of Use.” Cool Nightmare is the followup to the dream-pop quintet’s acclaimed debut, The Hands That Take You, released this past fall on Tender Loving Empire (Typhoon, Loch Lomond).
Listening to Radiation City might make you believe that you’ve died and gone to heaven. As hyperbolic as this statement seems, put on the song “Find it of Use,” the third track and first single from their 2012 EP entitled Cool Nightmare, and you’ll hear why we’re saying this: it’s a dreamy haze of beautiful melodies, with what sounds like angelic caresses of a harp, all lead by the gorgeously ethereal vocals of Lizzy Ellison. Light finger snaps keep the beat, and Ellison lets her vocalizations rise up to the heavens in an almost-operatic fashion. The EP is the follow-up to the Portland, Oregon quintet’s debut album, The Hands That Take You, and it’s equally as lovely from start to finish. Opening track “I Would Hide” is a short-but-sweet introduction (clocking in at 49 seconds), straying away from the band’s preferred hazy reverb-y/dream pop feel and, instead, sounding more like a gentle alt-folk ditty with acoustic guitars and pretty vocal harmonies. The lyrics (“I would hide from the night/I would die”) cleverly transition into the EP’s second track, “Hide From the Night.” Not only does the song borrow its title from the lyrics of “I Would Hide,” but it also picks up off of some of the melody. But instead of the line “I would hide from the night/I would die,” it switches up to “I, I have tried/you are tied.” Ellison and guitarist Cameron Spies split vocal duties, creating a lovely male/female dynamic. The song ends with vocals from “Hide From the Night,” a perfect way to bookend both tracks. On “Eye of Yours,” Spies takes on lead vocals. While Ellison employs more of a breathy, angelic lilt to her voice, Spies keeps his tone to more of a cool, mysterious whisper, bringing to mind the French duo Air, one of the earliest dream pop acts. Winding off the EP are “Winter Blind,” a Bowie-esque number, and closing instrumental track “Hacienda.” While the EP’s opening track was heavenly and angelic, “Hacienda” is an otherworldly soundscape of haunting, echo-y vocalizations and a melodic piano build-up that aptly fits the title Cool Nightmare.