What were you doing in 2006?

It was a simpler time wasn't in; okay nostalgia and those rose-tinted spectacles warp memories, but for me at least the above rings true in a lot of ways. 2006 was when I, and I'm sure many others, discovered Sweden's finest The Radio Dept. via the Marie Antoinette soundtrack. And I fell head-over-heels in love with their fuzzy, lo-fi, beautiful tones. It's easier to fall in love with you're younger, right?

For me I had little in the way of life's real pressures - my main worry on how to use up my 10 free film rentals from the Blockbuster I was working at, and how I'd make my skin a bit better. And ok sure, also a bucketload of angst and feels and ahhhh what are these weird yearning emotions, these confusing youthful emotions that also seemed to go perfectly hand-in-hand with their blissful, glistening tracks. Lyrically, The Radio Dept. were very much there with me too.

I was not especially aware that Lesser Matters (released a few years earlier in 2003) and Pet Grief (2006's release), was from a band with a heavy political glint is its eye - even if their politics at the time was on the not so obvious side. I would barely have even described myself as being overtly political - sure, there were issues at the time that the Labour government and in wider politics that irritated me and other left-leaning people (post-Iraq, attacks on civil liberties) but it was for me at least mostly background noise.

Ten years later, my God how much has changed. The issues back in 2006 as real as they may have been, have now been dwarfed by recent developments and the rise of the far right and nationalism across in the Western world. In regards to The Radio Dept., as I've been hit by a deepening political osmosis as I get older and the world gets seemingly crueler, my relationship with their music has also evolved; from looking at their sound through the prism of love, to the prism of politics. Or more accurately, both. Food for the head and the heart.

This has also been very much heightened by The Radio Dept.'s growing politicisation, their work bleeding-out a growing despair about the state of Swedish and global politics, and the rise of the far right. Running Out Of Love, released a month or so ago, is their most overtly political yet. The opening track 'Sloboda Narodu' (leaked by the band in the week before Sweden's 2014 General Election as it goes) translates as 'Death to Fascism' - a phrase that became popular following the death of Croatian Partisan Stjepan Filipović in 1942. It's a two fingers up to the far-right Swedish Democrats who went on to become the third largest party in Sweden - a surprise to many non-politco outsiders who view Sweden as a beacon of liberal values.

So anyways. This is why myself along with friends travelled to Gothenburg just to see them play live - this is how much they mean to their acolyte followers; I guess it also helps that they so rarely play live, and indeed rarely release albums (Running Out Of Love their first proper new release in six years), adding to the almost fetishisation of the two-piece (expanding to a four-piece of the live show here).

The set is as you'd expect was heavy with newer material, with this material featuring a more dance-oriented approach. Subsequently our venue at Pustervik transformed into the most melancholic disco; from the brittle loops and menacing synths found in 'Swedish Guns' (did you know that Sweden despite it's generally neutral approach to global conflicts is the 5th highest weapons manufacturer? Well did ya?), to the house-inspired frequency/pitch-shifting of 'Teach Me To Forget'. See also: 'Occupied' that has groaning synths so nebulous it's almost Twin Peaks-y with frequent nods to an 80's sounds. Often the set is quite immersive, but not in a hit-you-in-the-gut emotional way I perhaps anticipated.

Older material from Lesser Matters, Pet Grief, and Clinging to a Scheme scatter between these newer numbers; 'Heaven's on Fire' mellifluous approach a stand-out with it's immediate gratification and poppy hooks. The gentleness of 'I Wanted You To Feel The Same' strongly filled the tickbox of them '2006 feels' - the sonic equivalent of being spooned.

Johan Duncanson and Martin Larsson of The Radio Dept. have always had a knack for creating music that's soaked in a dream-like nostalgia; this coupled with *actual* nostalgia for their earlier work and soundtracking my youth makes for a potent combination. Nostalgia squared. And seeing them live in their home country over a decade later was an experience I'm not ever likely to forget. While politically they're essentially preaching to the converted, I'm just grateful personally they're around to provide a fitting pop-based soundtrack for this bleak political year, and continue evolving as a band. Hopefully, in another decade's time the world will be in a different place and this will be a time-capsule to 'wow do you remember the shitshow of 2016...'.