TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

Rating: ★★★★ ·

It’s been quite a long time since TV on the Radio released Dear Science back in 2008. While three years may or may not be considered a long time for some, it is still plenty of time for things to change, one of those things the sound of a band. As many fans know, the longer the time between releases increases anticipation and excitement for the record to release, but it also allows for some doubt to come into play: is this the band that you loved so long ago?

Nine Types of Light is both a yes and no answer to that question. When you press play on the cheekily named “Second Song,” you can’t be quite sure. Yes, everything is where it should be: the strikingly unique vocals, the textured guitars, and the occasional electronic noise. However, that furious energy that TV on the Radio brought to their last album seems to be missing. While you expect a fast and frenzied opening number, you get a well-reasoned and well-written slow burner, complete with that falsetto croon that this band is known for. For the chorus, the band brings back their traditional sound, and then lets it fall away on the verses and you can’t help but notice that this band seems to have both feet in different places, straddling that line between past and future. If anything, this combination of sounds is a great start, and is topped off by some horn work in the end.

As the album continues, it is clear that this is definitely a calmer approach to tunes than before. They chose to focus on what made songs like “Family Tree,” so wonderful on their last album; simplicity and elegance. “Killer Crane,” the longest song on the album, spans six minutes, sprawling with delicate vocals and even more delicate instrumentation. All the instruments, from the strings to banjo, all have room to breathe, and are not crowded by an overload of others.

While the first half of this album feels more meditative, the second half has that manic energy and fun that you’re used to associating with TV on the Radio. “New Cannonball Run” has those quick and sharp lyrics, while “Caffeinated Consciousness” is that number that you can always bob your head and tap your toes to.

In effect, while this band does sound fairly different at first, they bring it full circle. Their focus may be on the slower simplicity that they found, but this album is by no means a setback: it’s filled with a ton of detailed and enjoyable songs, so I suggest you take a listen.

TV On The Radio @ Stubbs (10/30)

Arguably one of the most innovative bands around, TV on the Radio, will be gettin’ down at Stubbs on Thursday night in Austin.  Tickets for the show can be bought for $25 from the Stubbs Front Gate Tickets site.  If you read our review of the band’s stellar 2008 album Dear Science, then you know we’re excited about this one.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/03-dancing-choose.mp3]

Download: TV on the Radio – Dancing Choose [MP3]

TV on the Radio – Dear Science,

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Does the absence of a song such as “Wolf Like Me” devalue a new venture by a popular band?  TV on the Radio poses such a question to the audience of independent music with their newest effort Dear Science,.

By opening with “Halfway Home” the band walks the thinnest of lines between new direction and tried and true talent.  The pounding song, full of handclaps, pushes forward, with an atmospheric guitar swirling in the background.  Outside of the chorus, listeners will immediately notice the more subdued approach the band has embarked upon.

Oddly, the band discards the often apparent gang-vocals approach they’ve used in their previous albums, instead choosing to focus the singing duties for one singer per song, at least for the most part. Stranger still is the lack of real instruments present; the drums sound more programmed than anything they’ve done before.  Sure, you have strings and horns, adding a strikingly subtle emotion to the entirety of the album, but no real musicianship, give or take a few songs.

Yet at the core of the album is a band that is able to perfect exactly what they want.  This album comes off more as a traditional R & B album, with a revisionist standpoint.  Of course there are a few odd songs, such as “Dancing Choose,” which is full of vocals reminiscent of Billy Joel when he was telling us that “we didn’t start the fire.”  Then you juxtapose that with a song like “Family Tree,” which some might call the most beautiful song TV on the Radio has ever written, even with its Brit-Pop leanings.

Admiration is owed to the band for their desire to go in newer, albeit, stranger directions.  They haven’t rested on their popularity; they have continued to progress with their own direction in tact.  The throbbing bass lines of “Golden Age” with its funk skeletal backbone might have pushed some listeners away, but those that used the surface value of this song as a statement on the album will surely miss out on some of the more amazing moments that come out on this record.

At the end of the day, TV on the Radio have answered the question in regards to the necessity of having a driving single to push album sales. With or without a huge hit, this is an album that shows superior growth in an entirely new direction, as the band continues to open new doors for themselves.  It’s all up to them to see where they can go.  I expect those new progressive moments to be as beautiful as the Gill-Young Wedding I attended this past weekend.