Call it sentimentality, but there’s something to be said for a well-crafted love song, and TV on the Radio has 10 of them on their latest album, Nine Types of Light.
The release marks an interesting return after the political funk of 2008’s Dear Science and the aggressiveness of their breakthrough album Return to Cookie Mountain. It’s as though the band chose to forget about the chaos in the Middle East, the stalemate on Capitol Hill and the corruption on Wall Street in exchange for the sunny pastures of relationships. While these are not torch-love ballads like “The Lady in Red,” TV on the Radio reworked their funky, clattering signature sound for songs that are, like a lady in red, seductive. On “New Cannonball Blues,” they even reach Prince-like heights against smooth horns, playful synths and lead singer Tunde Adebimpe’s vocals that switch from silky, deep baritone to high-pitched, yearning falsetto in a single measure. Who said indie rock couldn’t be sexy?
Opener “Second Song” thumps with some of the best direct lyrics in the band’s career, describing the slow thaw under the lights of a club before commanding, “Every lover on a mission shift your lone position to the light.” TV on the Radio creates the wedding song for hipsters everywhere on “Will Do,” with Adebimpe singing “any time will do, my love, any time will do, no choice of words will break me from this groove.” Elsewhere, the layers of instruments are peeled back for gentle, plucky guitars and whispering vocals on “Killer Crane.”
By moving away from the political, which can become a crutch, TV on the Radio have done what so few musicians can do: create sexy love songs based on monogamous relationships. Fans may decry the band’s change in direction as a sell-out move to be featured on a “Gossip Girl” montage. What those people need is a little bit of love in their lives, something they can learn about on Nine Types of Light.