Well-respected US indie art rock band, TV On The Radio, return at their eccentric best with Seeds, their first album since the death of bass player Gerard Smith in April 2011.
“How much do I love you?” are lead singer Tunde Adebimpe‘s first words to emerge from the depths of the familiar sonorous and layered hums that line the base of opening track ‘Quartz’. Adebimpe’s opener poses an interesting question to the listener, when you consider that TVOTR already achieved as close to perfection as possible two albums ago with Dear Science.
What TVOTR may have lost in terms of edginess (think earlier releases like ‘DLZ’ and ‘Wolf Like Me’), they make up for in enthusiasm and a sense of ‘anything goes’. There are no pretensions here: if it feels good, it’s okay. While losing a key member in Smith, TVOTR recorded the album with a host of contributing artists and continue to embrace diversity in sound throughout Seeds, while also maintaining an impressive level of consistent quality and their ever-present ability to sound unique.
The band also maintain a mappable trajectory in growth, with Seeds following on in the same uplifting spirit of its predecessor Nine Types of Light, while also adding new dimensions. The continued refinement in guitarist David Sitek’s production, now with an un-mineable depth of sound, is a big factor in this.
However, where Nine Types of Light was more flamboyant in its jubilant moments and angsty in its introspection, Seeds, while possessing many of these same qualities, is more relaxed, refreshing and ethereal, while also maintaining the sense of urgency and pop TVOTR are renowned for. What goes without question is that the band are once again painting with all the colours of the rainbow.
‘Happy Idiot’ was a fantastic choice as lead single, exemplifying all of TVOTR’s finest qualities; analytical lyrics, finger on the pulse melody and beat, catchy and cutting, intense yet somehow refrained. The most edgy song on the album, it sees the band at their subtly efficient best, once again mastering the almost intangible balance between light and dark.
Less brooding but equally appealing, ‘Right Now’ is the second chocolate and caramel covered wafer finger to emerge from the same Twix wrapper as ‘Happy Idiot’. The track’s opening line “I see you praying on the dancefloor, see you moving so inspired,” balances against a melody and beat combination more contagious than a packed train in winter is to a low immune system; immediately offering the opportunity for the listener to get freaky.
‘Test Pilot’ is reflective but uplifting, while ‘Love Stained’ is the track that tugs tightly and repetitively on the heart strings, building up to a euphoric refrain, mining the same kaleidoscopic vein that ‘You’ and ‘Killer Crane’ (both from Nine Types of Light) were extracted from.
There are also some punky numbers such as ‘Winter’, ‘Could You’ and ‘Lazerray’, although as mentioned, TVOTR swap some of their previous edge for a more celebratory, feel good, anthemic kind of punk, poppy and fun.
Finally, album closer ‘Seeds’ is absolutely celestial. The layered vocals in the song’s hook – “rain comes down, like it always does, this time I’ve got seeds on ground”, lifts the listener into a heavenly space as all the sonic elements combine perfectly to capture the feeling of the listener being swept over by, and then doused in, a cathartic rain to complete the sonic journey.
While Adebimpe’s analytical lyrical qualities are less dominant than on previous albums, the band’s ability to take a lyric and perfectly match the sentiment in the melody and mood of music is something to behold. “This time I’ve got seeds on ground” also, in a way, answers the question posed by the album’s first lyric “how much do I love you?”. There is definitely enough on this release for an affection to grow, regardless of one’s initial thoughts.
Furthermore, with the album produced by Sitek and recorded at his Federal Prism Studio in Los Angeles, TVOTR continue to operate as an interesting creative entity, with a lot of freedom to properly realise their ideas.
Key track: While ‘Happy Idiot’ embodies everything that is good about TVOTR, as lead single, it is already a known quantity. Because of this, the honourable mention of key track must go to the album closer of the same name, for its ability to perfectly realise a feeling through the combination of lyrics, music and production.
Seeds is out on November 14, 2014, through Harvest/EMI.