When Radiation City, the Portland-based sci-fi pop band, was about to disappear and the leading couple—vocalist and keyboardist Lizzy Ellison and guitar player Cameron Spies—behind it was about to break up, something happened. 

Music happened.

Spies and Ellison decided to talk through their issues, put hard feelings aside and start a new musical adventure. “Synthetica,” the band’s third full-length album released Feb. 12, is the product of that healing process and the best work of Radiation City so far according to many critics. Similar to “Animals in the Median” (2012), the 39-minute disc combines Brazilian bossa nova with space-age experimental harmonies and 1970’s funk and soul elements. It is almost as if Elis Regina meets Fiona Apple, who had just run into Deerhunter hanging out with the Beach Boys. But unlike in its previous album, the band delivers a more sophisticated and self-confident register with songs like “Juicy,” “Come and Go” and “Sugar Broom.”  

“Synesthetica” owns a great part of its strength to the organic and aesthetical of synth musical arrangements that blend with each other graciously despite its diversity and, sometimes, disparity. But Ellison’s potent and at the same time crystalline voice is the great catcher here and thus, deserves a special mention. In every song in Radiation City’s junior album, the listener always is tempted to say: “That melody would simply vanish into oblivion without that fascinating voice.”

Some reviews have highlighted some minor “cheesy” issues with songs like “Future”—a potential soundtrack for a TV cereal commercial of the 90’s— and the repetitiveness of the disc—which to a certain degree is true, considering that the album’s duration is not even 45 minutes. But two songs stand out to break this relative monotony and minor failures. “Separate,” the longest song of the record, features Spies sharing the vocals with Ellison in an ultra modern combo of tango-esque arrangements with dream pop organs and “Fancy Cherries,” the song that puts an end to “Synesthetica” and the perfect paradigm of the group’s bet for an amalgamation of sounds, arrangements and voices.

Synesthesia is defined as the neurological experience of stimulating one of our senses when another sense is already processing a stimulus. Radiation City’s “Synesthetica” aims precisely for a pleasant plurisensual experience, so enjoy the vibrant colors of its music and the melodious sounds of its palette.