- This One
- Head Above Water
- Sweet Revenge
- Michael Writes His Parents
- One Desire
- Long Faces
- After The End
- Higher Than Heaven
- Sincerely Charlotte
There are a few copies left of the 1998 Projekt: Archive CD reissue. It is not remastered, and doesn’t include the final two bonus tracks on the new digital edition.
Genre: Dream Pop, College Rock, Alternative, Ethereal
RIYL: Cocteau Twins, Cowboy Junkies, Lanterna, Low, Lone Justice
Hometown (1987): Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
With the placement of Radio Caroline‘s “Head Above Water” in HULU’s Cruel Summer (Season 2, Episode 6) airing July 3, Projekt releases this remastered edition with two never-before-heard bonus tracks.
The Reader’s GOSSIP WOLF column writes: A reissue from 80s Urbana band Area. In the late 1980s, Urbana-Champaign trio Area crafted glistening goth-tinged pop for legendary label Projekt; in retrospect, the work of vocalist Lynn Canfield and multi-instrumentalists Henry Frayne and Steve Jones seems like an obvious precursor to contemporary dream pop and shoegaze. (The members of Area have also performed in the Moon Seven Times and the Arms of Someone New, among other groups.) Jones, currently a professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, has recently remastered the band’s standout second album, 1987’s Radio Caroline, and added a clutch of new bonus tracks. The album is available as a name-your-price download on Projekt’s Bandcamp. Thanks to a recent placement of the album’s track “Head Above Water” on the Hulu show Cruel Summer, plenty of new fans should be finding their way to Area soon!
Formed in 1986 in Champaign-Urbana, IL, Area was an enigmatic dream pop trio quickly hailed as the midwest’s answer to England’s 4AD Records. On their second release and first vinyl LP, they merged the seductive, breathy voice and lyrics of Lynn Canfield with the radiant guitar and delicate synth inventions of Henry Frayne and Steve Jones. Finding their musical footing on Radio Caroline, Area explored gentle spirals of emotive, fragile moods at once sad and beautiful. “They’re almost all very personal lyrics,” noted Lynn Canfield in a 1987 interview with Italy’s Night Circle fanzine. “I’m talking about facts that happen to me on a daily basis, but it’s never planned, it’s not a conscious thing. The surest — and for me the only — way to write is to write what is definitely in you.”
Ranging from the straight-ahead rock of “Sweet Revenge” to the wistfulness and wintery “After the End” and “Crystal,” the variety of styles fits nicely with the late-80s music of the Cocteau Twins, Cowboy Junkies, Lanterna, Low, and Durutti Column.
Originally recorded on four-track and eight-track tape largely in home settings, Jones’ 2023 remaster not only cleans up the sound but also reveals nuances not heard on the original release.
Lynn reflects on the album & era:
Winding up to summer of 2023, Steve and Henry and I are in touch more often, removing thistle from a prairie and hanging out in coffee shops. It’s exactly like 1987 and nothing like it. It’s been fun to anticipate the release of Radio Caroline, to reminisce and threaten each other with new songs. Then when I saw where “Head Above Water” landed in Cruel Summer, I was shocked to learn my lyrics weren’t opaque at all: those kids are at a party negotiating some serious tension, just like my pals and I had been doing in the red room. In other good news 35 years later, the folks in that song are among my best friends; we fell apart for a second but came back together for some major life changes and never fell apart again. Listening to Area takes me straight into the scenes behind the words and then into what unfolded from there, and it can be weird to realize them coming true. How would a person even know it if they’d been time-traveling?
THE BOB (1987)
An outfit dedicated to funeral tempos and prettily wafting melodies that slowly and sexily intone over spacey synthesizers. There’s no denying kinship here with the merry groups of 4AD. The music of Henry Frayne and Steve Jones splits into tunes where silence is an active partner to the sparse, delicately repetitive guitars, floating and ringing minimalistic keyboards, and basses that plunk like tolling bells. Pushing above the music like a blast of winter wind comes lyricist/melodist Lynn Canfield whose rapturously chilly voice breathes tunes (which) intensely describes the hills and valleys of her emotional landscape with clinical simplicity — until a wildly romantic odd-angled flash of memory adds a dash of symbolism to her gleefully neurotic lines.
THE BOB (2nd review: October 1988)
With Area’s Radio Caroline it’s time for turning out the lights, lighting a candle and then sitting back to be enveloped by the record’s dark, starlit beauty. Really. That’s what it’s time for. Radio Caroline is 10 gentle tunes buoyed on a deep bass sea gliding on the soft breezes of Lynn Canfield’s voice. It’s elegant, exquisite and memorable music whether drifting on calm keyboard currents or passing through squalls of drums and guitars. (Radio Caroline has been deliberately structured with calm beginning and end surrounding a central storm.) There’s nothing much more to say but don’t let my brevity or my gibberish put you off. This is a mystical and magical album. It’s not quite of this world but I’m happy it found its way here. —Bruce McClelland
UNDER THE VOLCANO (1998)
Area was a band musically that was right where they should have been for their time, circa ‘87. This is very 4AD sounding in the sense of Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil. You get female vocals over ghostly guitars and scarce drum beats; this was definitely for the black clad set. Oddly enough, now we’d say this is very Projekt Records-ish. At the time this stuff came out, Projekt’s domination of the scene was just starting to build into the massive snowball it is now. This is loaded with the sort of melancholia that you get when you write rather deep and introspective songs. This stuff still holds up which is partially due to the fact that the gloom and doom seems real rather than painted on.
MAGNET #37 (1998)
(The second album from) enigmatic pop trio Area, the group Lynn Canfield and Henry Frayne first played in together. Frayne conjures up a radiant guitar ether that gently spirals around Canfield’s emotive, fragile voice as they both mesh with Steve Jones’ suitably delicate keyboards and programmed rhythms. — Bryan Reeseman