Review snippets taken from Ron Arcand over at Tiny Mix Tapes
On Face Always Toward the Sun, the localism is overwhelming. With track titles like “Scaling Alden at Night,” “Secret Soda Machine,” and “Endless Days at Strouds,” the album feels like a crisp, forested exploration though Athens, Ohio, the small southeastern college town in the shadow of the Ohio University where Radcliffe and co. attended. It’s no secret that the city has a strong DIY presence, and here, Radcliffe, like many other collage compilers, makes the landscape central to the art itself, layering tracks with floor creaks, cricket chirps, and dog barks — wooded floors and cohesive, shuffling electronics that ease the works together. It’s an aural portrait of stretching out, sleeping bags in a row, drunk on cheap beer and drive-in milkshakes beneath the stars, a glossy reel of Brooklyn roadtrips on MDMA, Chia Seeds & Apple Juice in the passenger seat. It’s a harrowing ode to youth and togetherness, college friends and old show houses — paint chipping beneath the loose porch swing as the sun sets and bands start their soundchecks before the show. Like the infamous suburban home of American Football’s 1999 self-titled album, Face Always Toward the Sun finds beauty in the suburbs, in kids basking in the wide-eyed, splotchy patches of life between youth and the real world.
Pairing the localized ambient tradition with that special Orchid Tapes blend of lush bedroom amateurism, Blithe Field builds its own stunning, hazy world within the Ohio town, crafting a heartbreaking collage of youth, family, intimacy, and togetherness from the ground up. Like James Joyce’s Dublin or Lou Reed’s New York, Radcliffe’s Athens is its own universe, a collegiate utopia in art, vibrant and overflowing, foam-drenched and howling on the lawn, the first big weekend of the year.