TV on the Radio – Seeds

In November, indie babes TV on the Radio returned with their fifth studio album, Seeds, to a sea of apprehensive fans. The band spent the early ’00s honing its unique sound and, by the 2009 release Dear Science, had cemented itself as one of the most exceptional indie acts of the era. The band toed the line between lush and crushingly heavy, combining R&B sensibilities and powerful vocal performances. Yet their last release, Nine Types of Light, was at best a sidestep for the band. While it contained a few extremely solid numbers, it was a sign of the band settling into their sound, disappointing for a group known for pushing the envelope. TV on the Radio shines brightest in the grooves of their murky, rhythmically unstable works. But with each subsequent release, they seem to increasingly opt for squeaky-clean production and melodic simplicity.

So where are we a decade after the release of their debut proper? Well, if they tried something new this time around, it was sounding generic. Though they preserve the horn spurts and fuzzy-ass guitar, the record is entirely too slick for me. And while TVotR has always basted its songs in electronic glaze, this one is especially EDM-heavy, and not in the ways I’d like to see.

But worst of all, the melodies are boring. Though some interesting noises lurk within, September’s single, “Happy Idiot,” left me cold. Meanwhile, “Test Pilot” could have been sung by Jack Johnson with similar effect. The highlight, “Love Stained,” provides some cragginess to cling to, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined a song like this could be a TVotR album highlight. To add insult to injury, lead singer Tunde Adebime declared the record “1,000%, without a doubt, the best thing we’ve ever done.” If anything, Seeds confirms our natural apprehensions about a band at this stage its career: they’re no longer an essential component of the art rock ecosystem.

Now, TV on the Radio tends to deliver a kind of catharsis that can only be achieved from repeated immersions, so it’s probably worth a listen. We’re talking about TV on the Radio here – it has to be pretty good. If you approach this one with the mindset that TV on the Radio owes you not a thing, you’ll probably walk away at least bobbing your head to some funky beat.

TV on the Radio