TV on the Radio, the Brooklyn-based afro-synth-funk-soul-indie-art-rock-whatever group, is back with their new LP “Nine Types of Light.” This album, their first since the 2008 acclaimed album “Dear Science,” shows a band displaying a slower, more mature effort. The lyrics are far less abstract, instead being primarily about love and relationships, a change that works in their favor this time.
The album, primarily comprised of mid-tempo songs, is defined by a few notable aspects. First, Tunde Adebimpe’s off-kilter croon and distinctive falsetto are again on display, one of the more notable aspects of TV on the Radio’s sound. The percussion is largely electronic, with deep bass drum sounds blending with synthesizers, while contrasting with the different organic instruments on the album. There is rather diverse instrumentation on the album, including everything from spastic horns to a banjo, featured during the chorus of the song “Killer Crane.”
The album opens, humorously enough, with “Second Song,” that urges “every lover on a mission to shift their known position into the light,” a theme that is explored throughout the rest of the album. The song, starting with sparse percussion and an organ, builds up tremendously to a huge, funky chorus. “Keep Your Heart,” the second song on the album, starts similarly — slowly, with handclaps and a distant-sounding piano — then soon manages to integrate both Spanish and electric guitars, synthesizers and violins.
“You” has a funky, repetitive guitar part and manages to be both complex and extremely catchy at the same time, simultaneously being dense and dance-like. The songs continue in this vein — they’re catchy but complicated pieces of art rock that simultaneously groove and make you think with introspective lyrics about love and relationships. The instrumentation is both immediate and in the background, with some of the bass synthesizers rattling your eardrums while almost every song features distant, difficult to place elements that add great texture to the songs courtesy of producer and band member Dave Sitek.
So what does this all amount to? An excellent, mature effort by TV on the Radio. Pretty much every song featured is extremely solid, and the album, despite being comprised almost entirely of mid-tempo tracks, never bores. “Will Do” features a driving drumbeat, but it’s still a lovely slower song. “New Cannonball Blues” grooves better than almost anything on the album, and “Caffeinated Consciousness,” the closer, displays some of the intensity of their previous albums. This album, despite requiring a bit of an attention span, is definitely recommended and is one of the more worthwhile major releases that have come out this year.