Album Review: TV on the Radio, 'Seeds'

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TV on the Radio, Seeds
TV on the Radio, 'Seeds' (© 2014 Harvest Records)

TV on the Radio's Seeds is a thrilling return: arguably their most accessible effort to date, while still retaining just enough of the inscrutability that helped put them on the map.

If ever a band had reason to go on indefinite hiatus, cease all activity or break up altogether, it would have been TV on the Radio. The death of bassist Gerard Smith, just weeks after the release of Nine Types of Light in spring 2011, left the future of the band in doubt, and nobody would have faulted them if they'd decided to call it a day after losing one of their founding members to cancer. They wound up releasing two new singles last year, for reasons that have only very recently become clear: the band had reconvened, not sure how — or if — their new music might come out. Their first two songs, "Mercy" and "Million Miles," displayed a more direct, straightforward style, as opposed to the signature murkiness that pervaded their early work. In retrospect, both songs have held up incredibly well, and either might have been slotted in seamlessly to the running order of Seeds.

Seeds sounds like the TV on the Radio album that always should have existed, yet somehow never did up until this point. While their previous work, while excellent in its own right, always felt designed to impress rather than to dazzle, Seeds strives to trip all the body's pleasure centers. The band's instincts as pop musicians are allowed to manifest in countless, creative ways, without inhibitions. It's wonderful and fun to hear the band work their way through some of the "classic" archetypes of popular music, ranging from weirdness ("Quartz") to heavy synthpop ("Careful You") to '60s-inspired rock/soul ("Could You") to jittery top-40 brass-ring grab ("Happy Idiot") just in the opening four-song run. Other highlights include the slow-building epic "Ride," the riff-heavy duo of "Winter" and "Lazerray", and the closing mission statement/title track.

It's exciting and reassuring to know that not only do we have TV on the Radio back in our lives, but they continue to push themselves to new places and new sounds. Seeds welcomes them back to the table, as if they'd never missed a beat.

What do you think of the album? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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