4.14.2011

Crash Thursday: TV On the Radio - Nine Types of Light


Genre: Experimental Rock/Indie Rock
Origin: Brooklyn, NY

TV On The Radio has been Brooklyn's answer to experimental rock for some years now, laying somewhat deep on the underground circuit until reaching what is undoubtedly their closest mainstream album, Dear Science, only three years ago. There's a good reason why they had finally hit the mainstream: their eclectic and wide range of styles has proven them to be a great force in turning rock on its head, and their music up to this point has been nothing but transcendent.

I honestly chalk this up to Brooklyn and their location. It's a kind of scene that allows for true verbal expression and pulse-pounding beats that properly blend together and take the necessary steps to mix and match the appropriate sounds. Now with a new decade on our hands, they've offered us Nine Types of Light, a decidedly subtler album that clearly tones down that Brooklyn sound almost clearly in favor of their new locale on the West Coast. What I mean by that and what it ultimately comes down to is that it's a fine addition of songs to their catalog that will only help to continue their catapult into the public consciousness, but as a cohesive structure it just misses the essence of their previous work and feels rather light (no pun intended).

Let me set the record straight and suggest to you that each one of these songs is great in their own right. I've noticed that TV On The Radio are always best when both their lyrical content and music composition truly find that progression and expand to translate what the band is trying to express. This is no different on Nine Types of Light, except for the fact that the only real common thread here is "love" or the "idea" of it. This is not any new territory for them, as they've done plenty of talk about the meaning of love on previous albums. What it seems to me is that, overtime, that theme becomes such a thin thread holding these songs together. Not only do these songs' initially interesting sounds wear off quick, but each song would feel better fit to be spread amongst their previous albums (as if those albums really needed better balancing to begin with). Examples like "New Cannonball Blues" and "No Future Shock" could easily be songs off of Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, and while they're most certainly good, they do not belong on this record.

"Second Song" starts things off well as a spritely number, but it amps up only to dip into the remaining and much more subdued first-half that takes singer Tunde Adebimpe on his road of love. This is love in the lighter sense of the theme, by the way. Songs "Keep Your Heart" and "You" find softer approaches to love that kind of keep Adebimpe at bay, as if having the listener really just lay back and attempt to approach the sounds at a slight ease. "Killer Crane" goes down an even gentler path, implementing a ballad-like entry of tender instruments and a banjo for shits and giggles.

It's actually almost too light for TV On The Radio, a band who've mixed both this theme with deeper and more thought-provoking ones like war and strife AND have them best represented by their thumping sound. That isn't to say a lighter approach to "love" is inferior or that there's anything wrong with Adebimpe going for this route because he tells it in a way that radiates with us. My conflict here is with their establishment of prior sounds that took them to grander places in more eloquent ways. I could understand if the aim was to build upon the theme by really changing the sounds to emulate those feelings, but in the end, this is TV On The Radio playing "love," and it ends up missing the point.

Perhaps the true centerpiece of Nine Types of Light is "Will Do". This song defies the above factors and represents exactly what TV On The Radio are best at, while at the same time really translating the slower beats to match the lyrics. It's got a very nice hook that takes it to the level of "TVOTR's Best Songs Ever" and it's the album real eye-opener as far as I'm concerned. It also starts a second-half that sounds like a completely different album, which almost makes me wonder why they didn't decide to go this path instead. The overall placement of "New Cannonball Blues" along with "Repetition" and "Forgotten" take a much more recognizable sound that, regardless of theme, they take on a quality that fits naturally in TVOTR's ballpark. Even if the songs do sound like they're coming off their other records, it's these moments that allow for comfort. I'm not suggesting that I don't "understand" the first half because it's "strange" or isn't comfortable - I'm merely suggesting that TVOTR play it best when they're on point.

This is by no means a misstep for TV On The Radio, but it's just a little overcooked. You've got a first-half that's soft-spoken and hanging on the same thread with the same sounds, and then you've got a second-half that makes a little more sense yet really swims in all the spectrums of their catalog. It's sort of all over the place for an album whose parts are better than a whole, and it may take a few listens on songs to really let them sink in. If anything, "Will Do" will be the song I come back to time and time again, really sticking out as one of TVOTR's best efforts. Nine Types of Light on its own will remain rather staggered, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't listen to these songs that have their full merits on their own grounds.

(The Deluxe Edition of the album also includes the bonus track "All Falls Down" and two remixes of "Will Do")

3/5

TV On The Radio - "Will Do"


TV On The Radio - "Second Song"


Nine Types of Light is available now on Interscope Records.

4.13.2011

Vid Break! Foo Fighters Hit Their Stride With "Rope"


Have you heard of the Foo Fighters? Long story short, ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl and his band have taken what is essentially Alternative Rock and turned it into a global juggernaut. They helped to raise the ferocity that Rock used to emulate back in the day, and they have been continually recognized for their endeavors with several Grammy nominations and wins as well stand-out music videos. "Rope" can easily be considered one of them. The lead single off their latest LP, Wasting Light (which will be reviewed for tomorrow's Crash Thursday) not only grabs your attention sonically but also visually, as the guitar strums flicker the intensity that is "light" (hence the album's title) and as the pounding drums help dictate the editing of several angles. Sure, it's the band playing an awesome song to begin with, but the video also gives me confidence that the Foo Fighters have definitely stepped up their game with this one. Check it out!


-DJ

4.12.2011

Take 2 Tuesday: "Chain of Missing Links" by The Books


Genre: Experimental/Sound Collage
Origin: New York City, NY

This week's Take 2 Tuesday brings you The Books, an eclectic duo that quite honestly know what direction they're going in, even if we as listeners don't know where. Their off-kilter style of letting the different effects and loops overtake the synthesis of vocals and lyrics can oftentimes be funny and outright confusing, but I mean that in the greatest sense. It's a strange and unique quality to have considering that none of their contemporaries tend to do the same thing, and in that way, The Books are their own territory of music. "Chain of Missing Links" is only the tip of the iceberg on The Way Out, but even throughout their catalog, The Books like to change things up in what would be an "ordinary" genre and turn it into something that's wholly their own. Whether it's meditative or intrusive, The Books will take you on a ride of discovering something completely new.

The Books - "Chain of Missing Links"


-DJ

4.11.2011

In Case of the Mondays: Death Cab's New Album Opener Sneak Peek

Genre: Indie Rock

There has been a trend in the music industry over the past decade to shift the concentration from the album to the single. Obviously, online music stores such as iTunes and Rhapsody, have been the impetus for this change. Personally, I am not a fan of this because I believe an album should be swallowed whole, digested, and then quietly contemplated to find its value. Does that mean I am against singles? No, not at all. Many of the best songs every written were singles and need no album accompaniment to be enjoyed. However, such songs are few and far between. Nevertheless, despite my nostalgic and somewhat alarmist feelings that the days of true music appreciation in the mainstream are coming to a sad close, the pulse of culture beats on and we now see even indie bands getting onboard with the single-song mentality.

Death Cab for Cutie's upcoming May 31st release, Codes and Keys, is now available for pre-order on iTunes with the option of purchasing an iTunes Pass for an additional $2. Making this little extra purchase gives you access to a few songs released one by one every couple of weeks from now until the album release date; it also downloads the music video for the first single off the album, "You Are a Tourist," when it becomes available on iTunes, so the extra money is somewhat deserving. Now, I am a self-described DCfC fanatic (hence the obligatory fanboy acronymous spelling) and a bit of a sucker, so I bought the iTunes Pass. Sue me.

All that being said, let's get into it. The first song to download from the iTunes Pass (besides the previously mentioned and released single) was the album opener, "Home Is a Fire." The moment the song begins, it is clear that Death Cab is up to something very different for them. I honestly didn't know how to feel when I first heard it. It took listening through to the end of the song to come anywhere near close to understanding what they're trying to do with this new sound. I still don't know entirely how I feel about this new album or where they're going as a band, but whatever happens, I know it will be something very interesting, hate it or love it. So today we leave you with a song to ponder; a song to mull over as you go about your day. Sometimes, in case of the Mondays, daydreaming about the uncertain is exactly what you need to make it through.

Death Cab for Cutie - "Home Is a Fire" off Codes and Keys


-JB

4.10.2011

The Benchwarmer: Lo-fi vs. Hi-fi

Is music all in how it's produced? Given the idea that today's pop music sounds crispy and freshly made out of the oven (not in terms of lyrical content, though that's up for another discussion), it seems as if a lot of music is produced at a louder bit rate, a cranked bass or treble, and the recording quality is just overall clearer. At least I've noticed this kind of quality listening to music that comes from big-name record companies like Capitol, Interscope, Atlantic, and the like, but what about all of those artists who've yet to sign and are struggling to find their voice? They can gather up enough money to thankfully record one EP or LP out of their garage using basic equipment and the quality is very "lo-fi" and not nearly as clear, but hey, it's still music, right?


Vs.


I ask, now, about the intention of this sound. You may want to consider the types of artists that work out of their garages or work very independently. These artists that record and mix lo-fi like Ariel Pink have made a career out of creating albums that sound muffled and rigid and raw, and they are directly affected by what the lyrics imply or the music bellows. This kind of quality doesn't beg for clarity, but in fact begs for us to find a richer and more natural connection to the artist rather than layering compression or transformations to make that connection clearer. Of course it's great for us to be able to have clarity to listen in, but the effect of not being able to listen is Pink's mantra, giving an eerie sensibility to pay closer attention to the sounds you're either not hearing or not paying attention to.

So if I'm listening to an artist whose lyrics are intended to be deep or purveying, shouldn't it be more appropriate to record it in a lo-fi setting? Do you think having that sonicular clarity really matters to listen to the music, such as those recording hi-fi? Think about it.

-DJ