The debut album from Canadian songwriter Calvin Love looks something like a modern indie DIY paradigm at first: self-described “lo-fi bedroom pop” recorded entirely over boom-bap drum machine beats and enough distortion and tape hiss to drown out about half his words. At a time when record labels’ and journalists’ inboxes alike are perpetually flooded with albums from new artists described in those very words alongside promises of the next Daniel Johnston, New Radar shouldn’t turn heads. It is, in other words, a textbook recipe for an apathetic 2.5 stars and a “come back in two years, bro”.
Here’s why that didn’t happen: Love can write a hook. He’s been fielding his fair share of inevitable comparisons to “60’s pop” lately, but for good reason. Some of New Radar‘s tracks are FM radio gold fit for Phil Spector’s wall of sound, only they’re covered by a guy who had little more than a four-track and a guitar lying around – just have a listen to the bubblegum chord progressions of “Waiting on You” and imagine how natural and accessible they would sound loaded up with strings and horns. In stripping his song ideas naked, Love throws his words and melodies on the line – wisely, as they stand strong.
New Radar is immeasurably messy, as any rookie effort should be. That’s why it isn’t so much a great debut as a normal, flawed debut from a songwriter who could be great. If he comes back in two years, it might not be long until we know for sure.
Essential Ttracks: “Waiting on You”, “Magic Hearts”, and “KONICA”