Release Date: Nov 17, 2014
Record label: Harvest
Barely a week after TV On The Radio’s fourth studio album Nine Types Of Light arrived in April 2011, bassist Gerard Smith – who had initially been recruited by singer Tunde Adebimpe after busking in New York’s subway – was tragically taken by lung cancer at the age of just 36. Over two years passed before we heard from them again, Smith’s death no doubt a contributing factor to their understandable absence. But then, in the latter half of last year, something quite enthralling emerged – the brilliant, all-action, fast paced single Mercy.
TV on the Radio are called many things, but until now a pop act wasn't one of them. Seeds, the band's latest, and first since the passing of bass player Gerard Smith, is the most clear-eyed and anthemic album of their career. It's also the closest thing to pop the group is likely to produce.Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone's voices are front and centre, soaring through choruses few felt the band were capable of, let alone interested in, writing.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. To say the early portion of 2011 was an unkind time for Brooklyn's TV on the Radio would be a grave understatement. The post-millennial art-rock pioneers' divisive fourth album, Nine Types of Light, was released to reasonable fanfare, but it was a far cry from the landmark trio of consistently progressive LPs that preceded it: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (2004), Return to Cookie Mountain (2006) and Dear Science (2008).
There has always been a recklessness underscoring TV on the Radio. Early on, it manifested easily in the band’s approach to production and instrumentation, but deep inside its lyrics there has always been a careless abandon to the frequency and fervor in which Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone will open and give of their hearts. The group’s last album, 2011’s Nine Types of Light, found it still processing the lessons learned from 2008’s Dear Science and it became the most thematically static of their output.
Arriving three years after the mellow Nine Types of Light -- and the death of bassist Gerard Smith, who succumbed to lung cancer just days after the album's release -- Seeds has a palpable sense of moving on for TV on the Radio. Sonically, it's crisper and clearer than ever before; songs like the beautiful ballad "Test Pilot" use this clarity to prove, once again, that TV on the Radio fuse indie and R&B more genuinely than many of the acts that sprang up during their hiatus. Though they rein in their trademark lushness ever so slightly, it doesn't diminish their sound's magnitude; instead, it adds an urgency that feels even more pointed after Nine Types' hazy reveries.
The past three years have been tough for New York art-rock experimentalists TV On The Radio. In 2011, they lost their bassist Gerard Smith to lung cancer nine days after the release of their fourth album ‘Nine Types Of Light’, a record whose futuristic sheen and hour-long accompanying film saw them reshape guitar-pop’s boundaries as they did with 2006’s David Bowie-featuring album ‘Return To Cookie Mountain’. Since then, the band have parted acrimoniously with their old label Interscope (“They did what they did.
‘Seeds’ should act as a transitionary release. Instead, it’s explosive, stampeding and incapable of throwing caution to the wind. Remarkable, given this is TV on the Radio’s first album since the passing of bassist Gerard Smith at 36. Instead of allowing his death to dictate subject matter, and rather than stopping altogether, they’ve attempted to create their most triumphant record to date.
On hiatus since the death from lung cancer of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011, TVOTR have chosen an unlikely moment to come back with the most hooky, poppy album of their career. Their old experimental noises have now taken a back seat to 4/4 beats, jangling guitars, punky powerchords and immediate dance grooves. When weirder sounds appear, they’re within conventional pop structures, such as when Ride’s Bowie/Eno-like instrumental intro gives way to a motorik, REM-type melody.
Just last year, a full-length album from TV on the Radio seemed like a distant possibility. After the release of the patchy-but-still-good Nine Types of Light in 2011, the band cut ties with its longtime label Interscope—not on great terms, either, as implied by frontman Tunde Adebimpe in an interview with Spin. Days after that album’s release, longtime member Gerard Smith lost a battle with lung cancer.
There are, according to the Internet's cod psychology, somewhere between five and seven stages of grief. Regardless of scientific accuracy, it is unlikely that any of the stages include "make a blistering pop funk album;" this brings us to TV on the Radio's fifth full-length offering, Seeds..
The cheap Williamsburg loft that Tunde Adebimpe and Dave Sitek rented with day-job paychecks while making their first 4-track recordings is now an expensive condo with a wine shop built into it. TV on the Radio, the band that formed there with help from friends in other nearby noisy bands—the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Liars—make music that sounds a lot more expensive more than a decade later, but have otherwise moved more toward accessibility than away from it. That’s how music works differently from the market for the real estate where it’s made: while Brooklyn’s been gentrified into the walled-off backdrop for Lena Dunham’s mumblecore Marlo Thomas performance, infinitely more people will have access to TV on the Radio’s fifth album Seeds than the band’s 2004 Touch & Go debut, exactly because more money has been invested into it.
TV on the Radio's music has always been thoughtful, challenging, and dense, but what appears on their fifth album, Seeds, is predicated less on exploration than reduction, sharpening, and in some senses attenuating, the effect of their sound. The album's title hints at roots and origins, but the songs are further from the oblique oddness of the band's early days than ever before, with material that for the first time seems to border on insubstantial. Any potential lack of substance is, of course, relative; TOTR has cultivated such a fruitful catalogue since their 2004 debut, with steady growth and development between each release, that it's by now standard to expect something fresh and singular from each successive outing.
Countless albums have been written after the passing of a loved one. Albums written after the death of a bandmate come about less often, but they happen. Some of these rage and seethe, tearing at the concept of death, while others wallow in sadness, filling the room with tears. But all of them happen out of necessity, as musicians cope with mortality in the only way they can: creating art, the thing that comes naturally to them, the thing that can theoretically become immortal.
TV on the Radio are a comfortably familiar name in indie; the purveyors of an eminently listenable (and frustratingly indefinable) catalogue that’s enraptured a cult following ever since their excellently-titled 2004 debut Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. But their cultural reach extends beyond being simply a cult concern: it’s highly likely that, even if you aren’t an avid TOTR follower, you’ll have at least a track or two from their well-stocked discography nestled safely somewhere in your iTunes. For their first record since 2011’s Nine Types of Light, Dave Sitek, Tunde Adebimpe, Kyp Malone and Jaleel Bunton have had to overcome severe adversity, following the untimely death of bassist Gerard Smith a week after Nine Types of Light's release.
TV on the Radio's fifth studio album is the sound of healing – but first, it's the sound of a band going over its wounds, and boy, do they run deep. On opener "Quartz," singer Tunde Adebimpe cries, "How much do I love you?/How hard must we try?" over intense percussion; on standout cut "Careful You," an industrial groove backs a series of manic pleas: "Can we talk?/Can we not? . .
opinion byPETER TABAKIS < @ptabakis > Tunde Adebimpe sings the following words on “Careful You,” an early track on TV on the Radio’s new album: “There is a softness to your touch/ There is a wonder to your ways.” In the context of the song, his couplet, sung over a restless dance beat and sheathed in openhearted vocal overdubs and warm electronic tones, is directed at a lover. However, the lyric could just as easily describe the artistic approach found on Seeds, TVOTR’s tremendously rewarding fifth studio LP. This sound – once hinted at and now made fully explicit, so easygoing and marvelous – is a breakthrough for the group.
TV On The Radio emerged 15 years ago at a time when a certain idea of Brooklyn (and New York in general) was becoming fashionable – gritty, druggy, louche, guitar-centric – yet their manic, overtly arty pop always set them apart. A frighteningly lucid distillation of psych rock, post-punk, funk, and synth-pop, their music simply had more going on than their hot-guitars-and-cold-beer peers, and no one else had two front men who could match Tunde Adebimpe's and Kyp Malone's dueling falsettos. Part of the fun of their records, particularly 2006's Return To Cookie Mountain and 2008's Dear Science, was hearing all those ideas and influences collide, those moments when the music would fizz, foam and bubble over.
After five albums (six if you include the 2002’s OK Calculator experiment prior to becoming a full band), you’re in a kinda personal relationship with a band. It’s a long term thing - by now you’re either hungry for that thrill of new aspects to their sound, or just happy they’re still around. This is an album that may not have been made, as it’s their first since the tragic early death loss of bassist, Gerard Smith, at 36.
Lately, just saying “Brooklyn” drums up some annoying images in the minds of those far flung from the borough. But of course, now-ubiquitous notions of artisanal pickles, knee-length beards and $2,300 baby strollers are mainly the province of about a 40-block radius of northwest Brooklyn. The borough itself, were it its own city, would be the fifth largest in the U.S.
TV on the Radio has always been a bit of a challenge -- a band with a distinctive vocal blend and a knack for insinuating melody, but with a wicked, avant-garde flair. For some hardcore fans, it was the twists that made the songs stick. Even the relentless 2006 single "Wolf Like Me" bottomed out halfway through, like a trap door had just opened beneath the listener's feet.
TV On The Radio’s fifth album, Seeds, takes its name from the chorus lyric of its last song, sung by Tunde Adebimpe: “Rain comes down like it always does / This time I’ve got seeds on ground. ” It’s a thesis mantra for an album that’s foremost about unapologetic optimism, the kind of line that could be repeated eight times—which he does—and still retain its full impact. It also anchors the best song, by far, on Seeds.