After a two-year hiatus – and a number of enjoyable side projects – Brooklyn art-rockers TV on the Radio are back with their newest collaborative effort: Nine Types of Light. Despite the break, the band members of TV on the Radio have kept busy. Aside from being tied to numerous other artists’ creative endeavours (Scarlett Johansson, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Red Hot’s Dark Was the Night among them), producer Dave Sitek released a solo album under the moniker Maximum Balloon, guitarist Kyp Malone focused on his Rain Machine solo project, and vocalist Tunde Adebimpe displayed his acting chops with Anne Hathaway in the sleeper hit Rachel Getting Married. Hiatus yes, but time-off? Definitely no.

The album is still clearly a Dave Sitek production, but it is noticeably different than previous efforts. Nine Types of Light sounds less distorted than Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, less aggressive than Return to Cookie Mountain, and slightly more refined than Dear Science. The songs are patient and lucid, showing definite growth in the band. With the addition of acoustic instruments – a first for TV on the Radio – and an emphasis on ballads, the band has once again trumped critics expectations and delivered an album that departs from their previous efforts, though maintains their consistency of creating new music without losing their core sound.

Album opener Second Song’ rotates between a speakers voice and a harmonized playful falsetto while Adebimpe’s lyrics add impassioned meaning to a song rich with brass instruments. Interestingly, ‘Second Song’ is a seamless continuation of ‘Lover’s Day’, the last song on Dear Science. Where one album ends, the other begins. It is seldom that we hear a band pay such homage to their earlier work. On ‘Keep Your Heart’, over funk guitars, synthesizers, and a steady drum line from drummer Jaleel Bunton, Kyp Malone’s drunk-like voice croons “If the world falls apart, I’m gonna keep your heart”. The opening pianos on ‘Killer Crane’ are somewhat similar to those on Dear Science’s ‘Family Tree’, but Adebimpe’s voice is far more uplifting as he sings, “And the moonlight steals the sound, I could leave suddenly unafraid.” Slowly but surely, the sound of an acoustic guitar sneaks in, followed by deep strings, piano, and a twang of banjo to complete the set. With its dark, sexy melody, ‘Will Do’ acts as a buffer zone between the two halves of the album: one heavily focused on ballads, the other showing off TV on the Radio’s angrier side.

Although it is a great album filled with a positive message of love, there is an underlying sadness that will forever be associated with Nine Types of Light. This past April, bassist Gerard Smith lost his battle with lung cancer, leaving the world with one last piece of musical brilliance and setting his soul to rest eight days later.

TV on the Radio are known for applying textures that are more dissonant than melodic to their songs, but this album is far more free from static and noise than their previous efforts, ending one chapter in the band’s life and beginning a new one.  Now all that is left is to ask the eternal TV on the Radio question: what’s next?

TV on the Radio – Second Song
TV on the Radio – Will Do


— , May 7, 2011    Comments Off on TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light