Sure, it’s a bit presumptuous to put out a singles comp that includes the singles from your year-old album, but in the case of Sweden’s Radio Dept., there’s as good a chance you didn’t hear their 2010 singles or their 2002 singles. Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010 aims to correct that. Signed to Swedish label Labrador for their entire recording career, Radio Dept.’s albums have often seen delayed international rollouts, limited pressings, hardly noticed press and limited touring. So the point of Passive Aggressive isn’t that this is some greatest-hits comp; it’s a way to introduce the band’s lengthy discography (three LPs and four EPs) to Johnny-come-latelys who started paying attention when 2010’s Clinging to a Scheme caught the band its biggest hype.
And in that regard, the 28-track Passive Aggressive is a resounding success, as you’re able to track the band’s evolution from Sweden’s Strokes — Johan Duncanson’s voice crackles with the same weary bark as Julian Casablancas’s — to Sofia Coppola muses (three of their songs were on the soundtrack for Marie Antoinette), to sample-heavy head-nodders (Clinging to a Scheme). The highlights here, while sometimes buried in the deep track list, are varied, from the lo-fied tenderness of “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done,” the shoegaze of “We Would Fall Against the Tide,” to the sublime heights of “Never Follow Suit,” which is the band’s most recent single, and so far, best.
The most convincing case made on Passive Aggressive is that Radio Dept. are like the long-lost Swedish band, one that connects the dots in the evolution of Swedish indie this decade. Radio Dept. can out-rock the Hives (“Why Won’t You Talk About It”), write as transcendent pop-hooks as Peter Bjorn and John (“Heaven’s on Fire”), be as ironic and self-referential as Tough Alliance (“The Worst Taste in Music”), and be as verbose as Jens Lekman (“The New Improved Hyprocrisy”). Radio Dept. caught flak for being derivative early in their career, but Passive Aggressive posits that they may have sounded like a lot of different bands during their run so far, but they’ve always just been themselves: an overlooked band deserving of more attention than the little they’ve received. This comp should fix that.