new music: tv on the radio returns with massive album, ‘seeds’ #soundcheck

November 21, 2014

The 3 years since TV on the Radio’s last record, 2011’s Nine Types of Light have seen the band go through a lot of changes. Most notable was the loss of longtime bassist Gerard Smith, who died of cancer shortly after the album’s release. The band changed labels, each member has logged serious time in side projects, and keyboard player Dave Sitek emerged as a major producer, his generation’s response to Brian Eno. So while these changes are clearly reflected in the band’s glossier approach to post-punk and art-rock, what’s most notable on their latest, Seeds, is how joyous the record seems to be.

Words by Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

TV on the Radio has always been praised for their use of ambiance at the edges of their songs. On “Quartz,” singer Tunde Adebimpe imbues his song of heartbreak with a sense of power and optimism. The chants in the background and Sitek’s analog strings provide the tension between regret and looking forward. Standout love song “Careful You” meanwhile does the opposite, where a nervous synth line contrasts Adebimpe’s vocals to amplify the doubt in his declarations of love. By “Could You,” Tunde’s pensiveness explodes into something like the nervous excitement of falling in love.

Seeds-era TV on the Radio isn’t the same band that crafted the 2000’s high water mark Return to Cookie Mountain. The jagged edges and social criticisms are largely gone, replaced by impeccable pop songcraft. Though on “Happy Idiot,” the band rediscovers some of the post-punk menace that defined so much of their early work. The one-two punch of “Winter” and “Lazerray” show that though the band has tightened and gotten more accessible, they can still kick it out with the best of them. Seeds is the sound of a band celebrating that after 11 years, and the loss of a core member, they’re still here. In that light it’s hard to fault them for losing some of the menace, and give in to Tunde Adebimpe’s declaration in “Trouble” that “Everything’s going to be OK.”