Wednesday, 6 April 2011

TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light

Since TV On The Radio's previous album, 2008's well received Dear Science, singer Kyp Malone released the more experimental and relatively underwhelming self-titled solo album under the moniker Rain Machine and producer/guitarist Dave Sitek unleashed the much-hyped collaboration project Maximum Balloon, which didn't quite live up to expectations. My appetite for more TV On The Radio material has been growing and now the band are set to release their fourth studio album, Nine Types of Light, on March 12, accompanied by a film of the same name.

Nine Types of Light continues a move away from the more noise and shoegaze influenced elements apparent on their breakthrough album Return To Cookie Mountain, towards a smoother funk groove hinted at last time around. Dear Science showcased the band's talent for soulful balladry but for every delicate slow jam the band had a killer in-your-face cut like Dancing Choose or Red Dress to keep the momentum going, with biting lyrics twisting metaphors about politics, sex, race and love. Nine Types of Light is a much more mellow album, with a ratio favoring slower songs and ballads.

Light is a recurring motif throughout, opening track Second Song calls for "every lover on a mission to shift [their] known position into the light". Much of the album revels in sickly sweet production, incorporating lush synths, piano, harp, slide guitar and horns with funky staccato guitar riffs, groove-injected finger bass and harmonized falsetto vocals. The drug-tinged dystopian No Future Shock, the dirty dirge of New Cannonball Blues, with its sound of "being dragged to hell", and the paranoid Repetition, which settles into a repeated phrase over screaming guitar and chaotic drums, reveal a glimmer of the in-your-face aural assault that TV On The Radio once cultivated and wielded so effectively, yet nothing here quite reaches the dizzying ecstatic heights of classic tracks such as Wolf Like Me or Staring At The Sun.

Keep Your Heart and Killer Crane are undoubtedly two of the most self-indulgent and unabashed ballads the band have ever released, and while they are quite beautiful in their own right, the former slows the album down immediately after the opening track while the latter grinds things to a halt just as the album begins to pick up again. The beguiling track order really works against the album creating pacing issues that negate any kind of momentum build-up and make it rather difficult to sit through. The lyrics generally seem either romantic and hopeful or lovelorn and bitter, what's missing here is sex and passion. Will Do is arguably the best put-together track here, where all the elements played with across the album's ten tracks fuse effectively to create a perfect pop ballad.

Nine Types of Light is a good album but one that pales in comparison to the band's prior releases and leaves me wondering where they will go from here. Let's hope the wait for the next LP isn't as long this time around. Below you can stream the full album, view the official video for lead single Will Do and watch the trailer for the film and album itself.

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