“Sunday” is Late Night Radio’s uplifting and funky answer to “Check Your Head.”
Ironically, both albums open with retro-style vocal samples, but thereafter they mostly shun samples in favor of live guitars and drums. In 1992, the Beastie Boys moved away from the mind-boggling sample stew of “Paul’s Boutique” and adopted more instrumentation. Likewise, the latest LNR album forgoes the musical samples of earlier records and uses a range of live instruments. In both cases, the result is songs with more structure and an album with more focus.
And the similarities end there. LNR sounds more like Chromeo or Cut Copy than anything in the broad Beasties catalog.
LNR is the musical alter ego of Colorado DJ Alex Medellin, who grew up on funk and hip-hop and blends those influences seamlessly into his groovy electronic music.
And plenty of friends collaborate on this record. Kevin Donohue of Sunsquabi plays guitar, Clark Smith of Dynohunter is on sax, and Drew Birch and Ian Gilley of Recess play guitar and keyboards.
Some vocalists also contribute, including Canada’s Def3 and Boulder’s Amanda Silecchio. Surprisingly, these vocal songs are not as strong as the largely instrumental tracks. In less experienced hands, the chill EDM loops could overstay their welcome, but these three- and four-minute jams are just the right length.
And it’s all about lifting spirits. The title and stained-glass cover art may suggest either an overt gospel record or a snarky mockery of religion, but the music is neither. Instead, it is a spiritual and uplifting but totally secular record.
Julianna Reed sings the equivalent of a motivational speech that should raise anyone’s spirits on “In My Mind.”
“You can put up a wall, but I’ll climb ’til I find a way,” she sings. “They can tell me I’m wrong and I’ll try just another day.”
— Steve Graham