Athenaeum (pronounced ath-uh-nee-um) gives us one of the most solid albums produced in the now over-enrolled school of alternative rock. The 4-member band from Greensboro, North Carolina, was signed to Atlantic Records in 1996. Radiance is one of those albums that are easy to pass over if given the dis-service of only being listened to once. But after a couple of tries, songs like title-track, “What I Didn’t Know,” and “Anyone” keep creeping into your head until you realize, “you know, those are damn good little tunes.”
And they are, laced with rich harmonies and intricate placement of bass and electric guitar that never allow the songs to imitate one another or become mundane. The single, “What I Didn’t Know,” starts with each instrument’s part lingering in and then the listener is finally hit with the full impact of the completed song. The gritty, shade or two shy of guttural vocals of Mark Kano overlay the complex harmonic instrumentation beautifully — especially nice to know that a deep voice can have some richness and warmth to it.
For fans of Toad the Wet Sprocket, the songwriting structure and instrumentation on Radiance is very comparable — featuring electric guitar lines that are sweet, not overbearing, almost allowing the guitar solos become melodies in themselves. Radiance is an album you’ll want to listen to a few times before making any judgments, but when given a chance, the album is solid packed with singles you’ll want to play over and over again.