TV On The Radio Show Review

TV On The Radio

The Metro, Chicago, IL

March 23rd, 2015

TV on the Radio Live Chicago

It’s no secret we love TV On The Radio. Whether it’s on record or on stage, the noisy Brooklyn indie rockers deliver time and time again. However, until late last year, there was a long period of time (nearly four years) we didn’t hear from TV On The Radio , partially due to other projects like production efforts for David Sitek but primarily the break was related to the loss of their bassist Gerard Smith, who died of lung cancer shortly after the release of Nine Types of Light in early 2011. I saw the band that summer in support of the album, and they understandably lacked the drive and energy I had seen from them in the past. Fast forward to now, it seems the hiatus has done the band well, as not only do they sound revitalized on their solid new record Seeds, but they seemed alive again on stage at the Metro in Chicago, a venue way too small for a band of their stature but one they are fond of and played at frequently in their early days.
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10 Best TV On the Radio Songs


TV-On-The-Radio, best songs

TV On the Radio is one of our most beloved bands here at LxL, and they just released their fifth studio album which we reviewed here yesterday. With that, comes “the list treatment”. TVOTR has been a staple of independent music for over a decade now. In that time they have released arguably two of the greatest rock albums of all time (Return to Cookie Mountain, Dear Science). A song from each album (and an EP) aside from 9 Types of Light (which I personally love, but is not loved by many) has made it onto this list. Which really shows the strength of their entire catalog in our eyes. After the sad and early departure of their former bassist Gerard Smith (pictured above smiling brightly in the middle), they have found themselves transforming and adapting into new territories, but never sacrificing quality. Wes wrote more on their new album yesterday which you can find here, and if you are into a bit more reading on the band, NPR wrote another magnificent perspective on them and their new album which you can find here. And if you are still interested in reading more, here is our list:
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TV On The Radio Review: Seeds

TV On The Radio


TV On The Radio album cover art

As this NPR piece so brilliantly states, artists often find themselves at a crossroads midcareer, either endlessly repeating what they have been successful doing or they go scrambling for a new sound with very little success. TV On The Radio, collectively one of LxL’s favorite bands, found themselves in mid-career land on their fourth album Nine Types of Light, an album that angled for a more straightforward rock radio-friendly sounds, but ultimately was their first disappointing release. They traded in some of the weirdness and layers of sound that might them so fun to keep turning to time and time again for a more instant but more shallow sound. Seeds, the New York rockers fifth album, finds the band going for that more immediate pop sound as well, but it’s hooks are stronger, songs are tighter, and layers are more interesting than Nine Types of Light, even if it doesn’t reach the height of their two masterpieces, Return to Cookie Mountain and Dear Science.

TV On The Radio come out of the gate swinging on Seeds, with four of the album’s best songs opening up the record. “Quartz” has Tunde Adebimpe trying to get beyond a broken relationship, but like the singer himself, you can’t help but get caught up in the waves of love (and sound). “Careful You” has to be the most TV On The Radio-sounding TV On The Radio song ever, with it’s cloud of apocalyptic noise that hangs over the song, and a constant feeling that something is amiss under Tunde’s soulful vocal. It’s what fans have grown to love about the band distilled into five minutes. “Could You” follows, which may be an extremely similar title to “Careful You”, but its as different as it gets from its predecessor, serving as more of an anti-thesis to the TVOTR sound. “Could You” is essentially the bright, jangly folk of the Byrds as interpreted by the strange, husky sound of TV On The Radio, making it the best and most surprising song on Seeds. “Happy Idiot”, the current single for Seeds, is another pleasant change of pace for the band, a post-punk inspired pop tune that sort of serves as whip-smart critical counterpart to Pharrell’s smash hit “Happy”. Look, even Peewee Herman agrees!

Coming off that murderer’s row of songs, TV gives us a big hangover with easily the worst track of the album, the mundane comedown of “Test Pilot”. This might be my least favorite song the band has recorded, and I generally love their ballads like “Dreams”, “Stork & Owl”, and “Family Tree”. The melody sounds cheap, the harmonies are overly sentimental, and it just feels out of place in their catalog. Fortunately they recover quickly with the propulsive “Lovestained”, led by Kyp Malone’s freaky vocal, who is the real MVP of the band in my opinion. While Tunde beautifully sings the majority of TV’s songs, Dave Sitek adds the layers and production, and Jaleel Bunton adds the intricate and thunderous percussion, it’s Kyp’s shroud of guitar noise, haunting harmonies, and straight up weirdness that keeps TV On the Radio one of the most distinct rock bands out there. “Lazerray” also deserves a mention, as it’s maybe the most thrilling song on the album and a surefire live favorite, as it’s a Ramones-style pop punk nugget but with all the crunch and darkness that TV On The Radio has to bring.

I’m happy I sat with this album for a couple weeks, as my grade has probably went up a point and a half from repeated listens. TV On The Radio is a band built for repeated listening, as they add enough layers and surprises to unsurface with each listen. I didn’t expect this album to be the same because of the immediate catchiness of its melodies, but the second half especially with multi-chapter songs like “Lovestained” and “Ride” prove more exciting with each listen. Seeds is proof that when artists get long in the tooth, the best bands keep creating something fans know and love but in new and surprising ways.


Can’t Miss: “Could You”, “Happy Idiot”, “Lazerray”, “Lovestained”

Can’t Hit: “Test Pilot”