Chances are, if you’re a faithful TV on the Radio devotee like me, by now you already have the recently released Nine Types of Light and have spent the last several weeks soaking up its brilliance and trying to decipher the band’s hypnotic messages. Or if you’re a reluctant holdout who’s still not convinced whether the Brooklyn band is worth the hype, you’re probably not sure if you should get a copy in the first place. Whatever the case may be, let this be your official last notice – you NEED to own this album. And if you already have it, you need to keep listening to it – no matter how odd or strangely oblique it may be in places.
This isn’t just the best thing to come out this spring, it’s a contender for best of 2011. It’s also the perfect place for newcomers to the band to start. With Nine Types of Light, TVOTR has managed to make its most accessible and intimate album to date – all without sacrificing the experimentation that made the band indie royalty in the first place. The songs on here are as urgent and eccentric as ever. But they’re also more melodic and less frantic than usual, giving way to a mellower sound. The group still throws in its usual trademarks – skronky no-wave horns and guitars, jittery post-punk rhythms, lyrics that read like a zen koan. But this time it’s all balanced by a certain heart-on-sleeve tenderness that gives the songs a fragile charm.
At its core, this is an album all about love and longing. On tracks like the slow-burning “Will Do,” an infatuated Tunde Adebimpe sings “It might be impractical/to seek out a new romance/We won’t know the actual/if we never take the chance.” Meanwhile, on the slowly unfurling “Keep Your Heart” Kyp Malone moans “Shine on light of love/through all this bruise and scar.” If Dear Science was the closest the band would come to making a dance record, then this may be the closest it comes to making a slow jam.
But if off-kilter love songs aren’t your thing, there are enough prog-funk freakouts on here like “Repetition.” “Caffeinated Consciousness” and “No Future Shock” to keep TVOTR purists happy. The real standout though may be “Killer Crane”, with its hushed vocals, folksy banjos and lines like “But as night heals the ground/and the moonlight steals the sound/I can leave suddenly unafraid.”
It’s the band at its most sparse and hauntingly beautiful. The song takes on an even more sobering tone in light of the recent death of guitarist/keyboardist Gerard Smith. He passed away last month after a short battle with lung cancer, barely a week after Nine Types of Light was released. Listening to the album now can sometimes feel like an elegy to him – a reminder of just how fleeting life and love can be, and also a wake-up call to everyone to “shift your known position into the light.”
Boldaslove.us contributor Kristina Gray is a DC-based writer, DJ and activist whose work has appeared in music blogs, zines, and publications such as Ms. Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @klarock