TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light

Nine Types of Light is synth-heavy and poppier than previous TV On The Radio albums like 2008's Dear Science. Rather than wholly embracing horns the bulk of tracks as they have in the past, this new foray takes hold of wailing background keys and holds tighter to the concept of indie rock. This is no longer shoegaze music. TV On The Radio is a rock band, attacking your senses with guitars and at points with '80s style beats. This is an epic record if ever there was one, but the band is still careful to toss in thoughtful, lamenting tunes too. Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone still split the vocals as evenly as ever, but they have definitely turned toward more full singing and away from vocal bombastic acrobatics. This is never more evident than on "Killer Crane," a track that builds so sweetly and honestly on piano and string percussion. In a lot of ways, Nine Types of Light feels like the "organic" TV On The Radio album, despite the presence of expected and valuable production.

For this boy, TV On The Radio was something of a revelation. Music never felt quite this way before I heard them. In that way they share common holds with Radiohead, another band who truly altered the musical landscape permanently and irrevocably. When TV On The Radio chooses to get funky they do it better than just about anybody. When they want to throw together a thoughtful and complex bout of math rock, they create an equation so elaborate that Einstein would've shit his phonograph. And now, as they venture toward something more direct, pure and sweet, they generate emotion as if they started the whole idea of love and fear and discontent from scratch. On "Will Do" we hear an echoing, cavernous '80s track that parrots so many love songs, but does so with enough electronic adornment that it would never sound like something we have already heard. The lyric "Anytime will do/ What choice of words will bring me back to you?" is simple and haunting. The kind of thought we've all had, summed perfected and sung sadly.

With the grungier "New Cannonball Blues" we are treated to a phenomenal combination of harmonized vocals that is both guttural and natural, protesting distemper as easily as the song embraces it. There are vague notes of John Lennon's protest songs like "Working Class Hero" here, summing all the frustrations into a ball and spewing them in a great purge. And finally, the horns appear in full-form too, calling back to previous albums. The aptly named "Repetition" utilizes a rolling electronic track to back another track of gain, loss, excess and trying and trying and trying again. This is a hook-laden track on an album that lives by hooks and quality song writing. The experimentation is lighter than previous art rock iterations of TV On The Radio, but they still know how to keep a listener guessing, offering several songs, like "Repetition" that seem to build to one thing or another and then quickly change direction. "Forgotten" is sweet and sad. "Caffeinated Consciousness" is percussive and funky, barking at you in a sort of Clash-like punk/funk way that tapers back into sweeter philosophical crooning. But, for me, some of the greatest sincerity comes from the opening track "Second Song" where chunky guitars come in to back a poetic group of lyrics about life, drudgery, music, light and seeing the world in a new way.

TV On The Radio never left, so this isn't a comeback. This is a band that continues to grow from album to album, altering the landscape and their legacy for the better each time. If we were all 12 and there was an awesome roller coaster that your friends told you that you must ride to fully experience life, this is the sonic equivalent for 2011. Get your hands on this album. Find a way. And until then you can preview it, maybe listening to it twice view Rhapsody on their free stream...

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