Playa o Radio’s Dance Rock Debut Sparkles Like the Fireworks of a Teen Summer Romance

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Dominican indie band Playa o Radio‘s bright, sunny tunes first caught Remezcla’s attention a few months ago at Isle of Light Festival in Santo Domingo. An outdoor festival would be the ideal venue to enjoy these representatives of DR’s young indie scene: The mood of their music is expansive and the songs baroque, begging for a big stage. Plus, you’ll want room to move your hips. But their six-song EP The Upa Father of the Little Tree sounds just fine in your headphones – terrific, in fact.

The rambunctious energy of the EP, with its rubbery bass lines and disco beats, hearkens to indie bands from the early 2000s, like Bloc Party or Interpol, bands whose sound described as a post-punk revival at the time. If this is a revisitation as well, it might be an even better idea this time around. Some ideas age really well as subsequent generations adopt and investigate them, discovering and fully exploiting previously overlooked possibilities. And it’s fair game; all that stuff is over 10 years old now.

Playa o Radio’s version is slick, stylish indie pop that manages to be cool and wildly romantic at the same time. The quintet’s release plays like a sonic kaleidoscope of emotions and packs all the fireworks of a teenage summer romance. Jangly, euphoric guitar leads set the powerful rhythm section on an upward emotional trajectory. Even the darker, more driving tracks like “Graby’s Moon” have a sparkle to them. It’s the trebley guitars and the madly lush production that do it, but also the breathless, quavering vocals of guitarist and frontman Ronel de Los Santos.

Playa o Radio frontman Ronel de Los Santos. Photo by Adolfo Sesto
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The EP opens with the effervescent “Tropical Party,” which has its roots in the old school indie pop tradition. The track features sweet boy-girl vocals and a lot of egg shaker, but feels as modern and fresh as it does nostalgic, with a dance beat that’s hard to resist. “Rediseño” is a disco by way of post-punk workout, exquisitely produced, with layers of backing vocals that lighten the mood. “Tigre Suave,” the most earwormy song of the bunch, boasts vocals with Robert Smith-levels of drama and the melodic punch of your favorite Cure song, minus the characteristic soppiness.

Don’t let the lack of brooding lull you into a false sense of security. Songs can start off deceptively twee, with De Los Santos crooning reedily, but can escalate quickly – as if achieving flight – and end abruptly. Playa o Radio is not selling bubblegum indie. Their sugar rush is more like a wild infatuation, the first one you go through where you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Most of us are smart enough to know, even as we let it take us up, that there’s a crash coming. At least in the case of The Upa Father of the Little Tree, when it lets you down, you can just press play and go right up again.

Playa o Radio’s The Upa Father of the Little Tree is out now. POR plays Santo Domingo’s Cinema Café on July 23. For more information, click here.