Tag Archive: TV On The Radio


05. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

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With her first release in six year, the return of Jenny Lewis is like running into an old friend you haven’t seen in years. From the first watery piano chord of Head Underwater to the climactic peak of the title track, The Voyager catches us up on her life and all the ups and downs she has gone through. But even in the darker moments, she sings with a wink, a light touch that suggests that everything will be alright in the end. The music is just as warm and inviting, with sun-soaked chords and strings permeating the record. There may be better albums that came out this year, but there are none that feel as comforting as The Voyager.

Highlights: Late Bloomer, You Can’t Outrun ‘Em, The Voyager

04. TV On The Radio – Seeds

Seeds

How do you deal with loss? If you’re TV On The Radio, you write a funky, celebratory record about life. The band’s first album since the death of bassist Gerard Smith finds them abandoning their apocalyptic vibes for an introspective journey of love, no matter what form that love takes. It’s easily their most accessible release, with the Beatles-esque guitar work popping up on Could You, the R&B jam of Test Pilot and the propulsive punk of Lazerray. Livelier than Nine Types of Light, Seeds takes the best of TV On The Radio’s past work and shines it through a hopeful prism. The message is clear: love transcends all.

Highlights: Could You, Lazerray, Trouble

03. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

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All hail our new queen, St. Vincent. 2014 was her year from beginning to end. And it all came out of her fourth, self-titled album, where she sits perched in a throne with a shock of grey hair. The music on the record is just as confident, off-kilter and challenging as her stare and smirk on the cover. While she has always melded harshness and beauty, the lines have blurred to become indistinguishable from each other. Every gentle lyric is delivered with a hint of danger and every nasty, warped guitar riff is as catchy and memorable as anything else she’s done. St. Vincent is the sound of an alien taking human music, writing her own version and sending it back to us. Who knew we could sound so lovely, threatening, accessible and weird at the same time?

Highlights: Rattlesnake, Huey Newton, Every Tear Disappears

02. EMA – The Future’s Void

EMA

On her second album, EMA has done the impossible: written an album about the Internet and the digital age that doesn’t cause eyerolls. Instead, The Future’s Void grabs you by neck and forces you to pay attention. EMA’s lyrics don’t come off as a lecture, but rather a warning about what the Information Superhighway could be doing to our brains. Recalling William Gibson’s concerns on the same subject, the words are carried by music that’s abrasive, but also melodic. Satellites moves from static to an industrial banger, So Blonde is a smash hit from 1994 and Solace builds off a jerky riff that feels like an electric current. It is one of the darker albums of the year, but just like debut, one that’s impossible to resist.

Highlights: Satellites, Neuromancer, Solace

01. U2 – Songs of Innocence

Songs_of_Innocence

What’s the best way for a band that’s seen and done it all to move forward? Look back. That’s exactly what U2 did for Songs of Innocence. After the last couple of disappointing records, the Irish four-piece dug into their history, exploring life in Dublin in the 1970s. No rock is left unturned here. Both the good and bad of that formative time is laid out for all to see.

The highs create ecstatic songs like California (There Is No End to Love) and This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now, the latter combining sharp, subtle guitar riffs with one of the best rhythm segments from the band in years. Every Breaking Wave is an absolutely gorgeous ballad and instant U2 classic.

Some of the best songs though come from the lows in the band’s past. Raised By Wolves is a tense retelling of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974. Sleep Like A Baby Tonight uses pulpy synths and a stuttering guitar line to tell the story of a pedophile priest. The Troubles, about an abusive relationship, features a perfect melding of vocals by Bono and guest singer Lykke Li. It’s another number that deserves high placement in the U2 lexicon.

Forget about the Apple nonsense and focus on the songs. Similarly to how this album reminded Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry of why they became a band, it will remind you of what makes U2 one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Highlights: Every Breaking Wave, Raised By Wolves, The Troubles

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This article first appeared at No Ripcord on Nov. 30, 2014.

TVOTY

There is nothing more shattering than death. The loss of TV On The Radio’s bassist Gerard Smith in 2011 blew a hole in the band and, as Tunde Adebimpe said, “could have stopped the band cold.” After such a tragedy, it would have been easy for the group to write a mournful affair. But Seeds, their fifth album, is also their most life-affirming, taking stock of the friendship that exists among the members and the ecstasy of being alive.

Seeds does not aim for the apocalyptic chaos of Return to Cookie Mountain or Dear Science. Instead, it treads farther down the introspective path of Nine Types of Light, just with a different target in mind. At its purest, this is a love album, though not necessarily a romantic one. Instead, it is about love for others, love for yourself and what it means to love.

“Could you love somebody? Could you strip the ego bare and let love take flight?” Kyp Malone sings on Could You, over a driving Beatlesque guitar lick, boosted by parade horns. It’s an absolutely exuberant song in a way that few other numbers in the band’s catalog can match. Meanwhile, Careful You snowballs a stuttering synth into an outer space chorus, kept grounded by Adebimpe, who pronounces the title as “care for you.”

Even when the band lets melancholy seep in, the music remains fairly upbeat and the lyrics talk about getting through such moments. This is clearest on Trouble, where Adebimpe instructs everyone to “put your helmet on, we’ll be heading for a fall,” over folky guitar. On a chorus is bursting with desperate joy, he shouts out “don’t worry, be happy,” with enough emotion to wipe out that Bobby McFerrin song.

Of course, happiness can come from not knowing or choosing to ignore the negatives, as it does on Happy Idiot. The understated guitars and vocals slide underneath a wall of synths. Although the song is decent, it’s the weakest single TV On The Radio has released in a decade.

Not only is Seeds the most direct and optimistic album, but in some ways, it’s their poppiest. The vocal melody of Test Pilot, with its speak-singing verses, falsettos and harmonies, sounds like a R&B jam from the 2000s, though it would be better than nearly anything that made the charts. Love Stained does the same, though it’s a little more musically harsh.

Although the slow and mid-tempo tracks excel, the band can still write a blistering rocker. Lazerray is their take on punk, a song moving at a million miles an hour that will get your heart pounding and feet jumping more than any track outside of Wolf Like Me. This should be part of their live set…pretty much forever. Winter is no slouch either, with a nasty, distorted riff that simulates the feeling of being pounded by a blizzard.

TV On The Radio’s music has always revolted against enemies, whether they were political problems, social barriers or heartbreak. On Seeds, they wage war against cynicism and despair, coming out on top. Instead of shrinking before death and darkness, the band is planting a new seed, growing into a stronger entity than it was before.

9/10

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After Nine Types Of Light, it felt like TV On The Radio was moving in a gentler, low-key direction. Then came their one-off single, “Mercy,” showing that the band could still write a top-notch rocker. “Happy Idiot,” the first single off Seeds, continues that upbeat vibe. Like the best TV On The Radio songs, “Happy Idiot” builds and builds, adding synths and effects over a slick guitar groove. “I’m gonna bang my head to the wall/Till I feel like nothing at all/I’m a happy idiot/To keep my mind off you,” Tunde Adebimpe sings in an understated performance. These guys have no plans to mellow out. Instead, the song serves as a nice introduction to one of this fall’s most anticipated albums.