Friday, 22 April 2011

Review: TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

Stream TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light here
Download "Caffeinated Consciousness" below

Nine Types of Light has been described by many as an album of love songs, which is a valuable way of looking at it on the surface. After TV on the Radio’s incredibly successful run, from humble beginnings with OK Calculator through to their highly acclaimed major label releases Return to Cookie Mountain and Dear Science the band decided to take a hiatus in 2009, with individual members pursuing side projects. This is a typical and often necessary move for many busy, spotlighted bands, of which TV on the Radio seemingly fit the description perfectly, so it was hardly a surprise. Nine Types of Light was announced only February of this year, and was recorded in Los Angeles, a much more relaxed setting than their native New York. The jittery tension of much of the previous two albums is largely absent here, replaced with a typically warm, Californian atmosphere, adding another dimension to the already unique musical outlet.

In reality only maybe half of the material here is specifically love-orientated. The band’s first single, "Will Do" is one of the more direct songs to address the matter. It’s a bright, soulful and seductive affair, owing much to Tunde Adebimpe’s warm vocal delivery. "You" is similarly bright, with joyful guitar and synth lines and drumbeat. It also has a fantastic video at the end of the Nine Types of Light film which partners the album, which is definite Video of the Year material. Contrasting these is the more calming "Keep Your Heart" which is sung by Kyp Malone. Malone stretches the lower and higher registers of his voice, and with the backing strings the band create one of the most delicate moments of the album.

On the opposite end of the scale there are more energetic moments a-plenty. "Repetition" builds tension before beginning a furious descent, hung onto Adebimpe’s vocal. "Second Song" works in much the same way, though it begins in a much calmer place, and ends with blasts of funk horns and grooving drums. "No Future Shock" is one of the more accessible moments, and is a definite nod to Dear Science’s more danceable tracks. And the album ends with "Caffeinated Consciousness", a straight-up garage rock number that stands almost isolated from the album’s remainder, such is the difference.

The more melody-driven songs are definitely what makes up the core of Nine Types of Light. "Killer Crane" is a stunning prog-like airy ballad, with guitar, banjo and vocal hooks keeping it breezy and afloat. "Forgotten" addresses a darker side to the band’s newfound Hollywood surroundings, and has nice violin and sleigh bells which present the narrative as it progresses. On the other hand "New Cannonball Blues" relishes in the electronic, though it makes room for more guitar and horn blasts.

The experimental nature of TV on the Radio has always been one of the band’s greatest assets, and it is largely retained in Nine Types of Light, although it presents itself differently. Instead of loading each song with several ideas from the worlds of art-rock, post-punk, soul, funk, jazz and hip-hop they instead choose to develop ten separate, singular pieces. As a result the album can feel uneven and incoherent. Also it emphasises the fact that not all songs are of equal quality. However like Bibio’s Mind Bokeh the individual moments are fantastic, and unlike that album there are no truly terrible tracks. A Californian TV on the Radio album is just another string in their bow, with no assured loss of musicianship from their previous efforts.

Once again, R.I.P. Gerard Smith.

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