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Critical Voices: TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light
When trying to woo a woman, every man has a different game plan. There’s the flowers-and-candy set, the outside-her-window-with-a-stereo tactic, and, of course, the ever-popular love song. Although they don’t specify exactly whom they’re attempting to snag, on Nine Types of Light, TV on the Radio is apparently opting for this last approach. But before you think that everyone’s favorite Brooklyn experimental outfit has gone soft, be warned that this isn’t your typical acoustic-guitar love-rock—TV remains true to itself the whole way through, blasting their lamenting and lovelorn lyrics with explosions of carefully structured chaos that no indie-loving girl could resist.
Like TV’s previous four albums—especially their last release, 2008’s critically-adored Dear Science—Nine Types boasts a cadre of influences that would smother a less talented artist. But the instrumentalists in TV are seasoned pros, seamlessly melding everything from jazz to electro into every song on the album, all narrated by Tunde Adebimpe’s soulful croons and underscored by unmistakably funk bass lines. From the minute the album opener, oddly titled “Second Song,” breaks from its vocal-focused intro into a stuttering horn-and-synth conglomeration heightened by Adebimpe’s Jimmy Page-esque falsetto, it is clear that Nine Types is not going to be a drastic departure from the band’s 10-year reign as champions of experimental indie.
The album’s subsequent tracks, beginning with slow-to-start ballad “Keep Your Heart,” further prove that newfound love and maturity haven’t tempered the aging band. The vocals on “Keep Your Heart” switch between high-pitched and deep and heartfelt, professing that “If all the world falls apart/ I’m gonna keep your heart” over a beautifully integrated mandolin. The mournful “You,” a lament for a lost love, has similarly delightful vocals, but its lo-fi distortion and singsong, somewhat island-y melody keep it from becoming too depressing or heavy.
But with all the successful tales of love and loss on Nine Types, TV really excels on tracks where the romantic element is relegated to the background in favor of full-blown, chaotic instrumentation. The album’s clear frontrunner is the bass-driven “New Cannonball Run,” where Adebimpe proclaims that he is “singing blues that hit you like a cannonball.” Truer words could not be said about the song—its forceful, inescapable beat is backed and highlighted by softer electronic work, launching a heavy but thoroughly welcome aural attack on the listener. And with angsty, bluesy tracks like this one interspersed throughout the album, TV not only shows that it can expertly execute love songs, they make us eager to hear the break-up album.
Voice’s Choices: “New Cannonball Run,” “Second Song,” “You”