After more than two years on hiatus from the studio, we were more than just a little anxious to hear TV on the Radio’s latest release. Since 2008’s Dear Science, the group has found themselves under everyone’s watch list for bigger and better things.
Nine types of Light lives up to expectations. Previous TV on the Radio albums were characterized by a dissonant and ominous tone that sidled along to lead singer Tunde Adebimpe’s brooding lyrics; all wrapped into a dance-friendly and synth-heavy package that never felt guilty.
But throughout their previous releases there was always separation in Adebimpe’s songwriting. His lyrics, even in emotional songs, were always shrouded in fictional contexts that made them feel removed. Paired with the band’s digitized sound, albums like Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes and Return to Cookie Mountain somehow felt artificial.
Nine Types of Light fills that void. It’s recognizably TV on the Radio, but more upbeat, harmonious, and most importantly; it’s honest.
Who – or what – is to thank for the change is unclear. The band’s hiatus from recording came after six consecutive years of touring and recording, and the album was conceived in Los Angeles instead of Brooklyn; TVOTR’s long-time stomping grounds.
“Second Song”, the album opener, sets the bar for the tone of Nine Types of Light as its solemn and ominous verse breaks into an energetic, Mika-like falsetto hook that sings, “Every lover on a mission/ Shift your known position/ Into the light”. There’s a significantly more positive feel right from the get-go; one that stays prevalent as the album unfolds.
Tracks like “Keep Your Heart” keep pushing a new upbeat attitude from TV on the Radio, while “No Future Shock” dwells on global issues along to funk-pop instrumentals.
As a whole, Nine Types of Light shows a great deal of evolution without straying from what makes TV on the Radio such a dynamic band. Adebimpe’s new-found confidence is riddled with honesty and maturity as a songwriter, and flows seamlessly through an art rock, post-punk package that fans and newcomers alike can enjoy effortlessly.
Where TV on the Radio goes next, however, is entirely up in the air. Tragically, the band’s bassist, Gerard Smith, died of lung cancer last week; only eight days after the album’s release. While it is truly a shame to lose such a young and talented musician, his last achievement in the studio was undoubtedly the group’s finest.
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