Radar Brothers' relaxed approach to writing, recording, and touring might seem lazy, but the band's sloth serves its music well: Hyperactive overachievers would never have the patience to create albums as languidly lovely as And The Surrounding Mountains. Like its terrific predecessor, The Singing Hatchet, the album grew organically over a year, a luxury afforded by self-production at the group's own studio, Skylab: Phase Three (a.k.a. singer-guitarist Jim Putnam's garage). The result is another album that finds beauty peripherally, not by charging toward pretty melodies, but by wandering around them. Radar Brothers' approach has garnered comparisons to a host of alt-country and slowcore acts, but its members are clearly more interested in emulating the mellow moments of Meddle-era Pink Floyd than The Jayhawks or Low. More lush and layered than its predecessors, And The Surrounding Mountains is prodded along largely by Putnam's simple, utilitarian piano lines, which are in turn surrounded by warm and fuzzy guitars. The result has erroneously been called psychedelic; where that word implies Day-Glo whirlpools of sound, Radar Brothers' music instead conjures monochromatic desertscapes, expansive instead of claustrophobic. Slow (but not necessarily sad) songs like the album-opening "You And The Father" aren't simply minor-chord weepers: They're relaxing instead of depressing. When Putnam gets up enough energy to sing with some force, as he does on "Sisters," his voice doesn't get much louder; it just hits a slightly higher register. Those moments recall Neil Young, but where Young often breaks into rock mode, Radar Brothers' And The Surrounding Mountains never does. Calling the group's music "restrained" would imply that its members are holding back some primal urge to rock, but they seem perfectly happy to relax and exude sweet listlessness.
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