TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light (2011)
NINE TYPES OF LIGHT can be seen as a refinement of the wonderful and more experimental DEAR SCIENCE similar to the way that the dark, sophisticated RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN was a refinement of their promising if somewhat monotonous debut, DESPERATE YOUTH AND BLOODTHIRSTY BABES. This time out, TV On The Radio focus more on straight-forward pop songs, especially love songs. The trademark TVOTR sound is still in effect, although the drones, poly-rhythms and atmospheric washes are less dense. The songs are beautifully constructed, full of sophisticated music and brilliant counter-melodies yet, as usual, they never sound cluttered.
Most of the album is kinda laid-back and funky although it does blast off into rock world on occasion and there's an ambient song as well. DEAR SCIENCE is certainly loaded with amazing poly-rhythms, and even though they're less evident on NINE TYPES OF LIGHT, the drumming is still highly creative, just in a less obvious way. There's also plenty of groovy, quasi-funk guitar to be heard and the vocals are so smooth and truly fantastic. Despite a few slightly awkward moments, the overall sound here is more natural and organic than on DEAR SCIENCE, particularly the vocals. More subtle too. And perhaps most importantly, the songwriting and sense of melody is as great as it ever was. Highly recommended.
"Second Song" - Vocalist Tunde Adebimpe begins the album by speak-singing, gradually evolving into a full singing voice. It's a disarming, off-beat way to start things, a sensibility familiar to fans that's also evidenced by the title of this the first track. The song soon picks up with a funky guitar and then launches into a full band attack as Tunde reaches that Bee-Gees level octave. It's a joyous tune, easy going yet upbeat, featuring some great brass accompaniment, another TVOTR staple. *****
"Keep Your Heart" - is a wonderful song. At first I had a hard time getting used to this one funk guitar part that sounds out of sync with the beat, almost as if it's breaking down. Then I came to realize it was probably meant to compliment the line, "If the world falls apart/ I'm gonna keep your heart." Love the way that one line combines the two themes of love and doomsday aftermath. Very intimate and romantic, very groovy and heartfelt. Love the cascading guitar at the middle 8 and the shimmering synths. Very uplifting! ****3/4
"You" - guided by a subdued hip-hop beat and a guitar with a great melodic structure. Features multiple layers of humming synths, some soaring, some kinda quirky and squeaky. A helluva love song, possibly the best track on the album. *****+
"No Future Shock" - a track in the true post-apocalyptic party spirit, and what a party it is! Another showcase of the band's fabulous flair for great melodies. *****
"Killer Crane" - A stately, atmospheric track with acoustic guitar and even some banjo that nevertheless maintains the modern sound found on the whole album. Amazing background vocals....absolutely beautiful song! *****
"Will Do" - Chiming synth bells announce this sweet love groove. So lush with a deep, almost intense undercurrent of emotion. A worthy first single and another strong contender for best album track. *****+
"New Cannonball Blues" - A more rocking song, it still maintains a funky sound along with some New Wave computer synths. More excellent brass touches appear towards the end. *****
"Repetition" - As one might guess from the title, "Repetition" is less mind-blowingly melodic than these other songs. A propulsive beat pushes it along until it breaks into open space and breathes, only to take off again with stuttering guitars and bobbing synth patterns. ****
"Forgotten" - begins in a fairly low-key manner with echoing synthetic percussion and subtle sonic touches. Sleigh bells, strings and "nuclear winter" soon kick in along with high-pitched vocals that glide overhead. The whole thing slowly builds into a horn and whistle-laden full bloom. It's another great TVOTR song that only they can deliver, but it sounds to me like they could've taken it further. ***3/4
"Caffeinated Consciousness" - is a great song, the most in-your-face rocker on the album. Alternates between a powerful, staggered rhythm and dreamy passages. The familiar sound on this one was teasing my brain for the longest time like an itch I couldn't scratch, until another reviewer here finally pointed out its similarity to "U-Mass" by The Pixies (- props to s.t.!). It's not a note-for-note rip off, but the structure and rhythm of "U-Mass" is clearly the inspiration. Hey, everybody has influences, even great artists so for me this isn't really a problem. Consider it a tribute. The song remains a punchy, upbeat climax to a killer party. ****1/2
Gerard Smith - rest in peace