October 9, 2008

TV on the Radio Grows Up, Becomes TV on the Internet

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It’s not rare to see stylistic progression in most bands’ music nowadays, but few take it to such heights as TV on the Radio on their latest record Dear Science. The Brooklyn musical quintet obliterates any consideration of subtle change regarding the follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2006 album Return to Cookie Mountain by ditching their formerly brooding atmospherics for brighter up-tempo melodies, dance hooks and symphonic anthems. Any attempt to label them with one of today’s increasingly meaningless musical subgenres would be reckless. They ascend to the apex of sonic experimentation with their aptly titled release — blurring the lines between art, substance and musical convention in the process.
Dear Science opens with urgency on the song “Halfway Home,” commencing with a furious drone of guitars and synthesizers, handclaps and exclamatory vocals by singers Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone. Jaleel Bunton’s virtuoso drumming and Dave Sitek’s audio loops also galvanize the song. Their music bends around Adebimpe’s voice while he melds tension and wonder into already surreal imagery of “wild spirits winding / colliding with world and wilderness.” On the next song “Crying,” pure funk envelops the listener as Adebimpe launches a criticism against both ancient and modern culture over choppy bass lines and a hypnotic, descending guitar melody that materializes as all other instrumentation dies out.
TV on the Radio’s aural sorcery is not just limited to their frenetically paced opening tracks — some of their strongest songwriting comes to fruition in their more flowing dramatic compositions. “Stork and Owl” sends the listener soaring over “high above / canyons’ mighty walls,” accompanying an avian duo contemplating life, death and everything between on top of competing violins and violas. The gorgeous song “Family Tree” begins with resounding piano chords and builds as Adebimpe spins a story of a love abrubtly ended by the hands of intrusive parents. The rather innocent composition takes a morbid turn, as the tree becomes an arboreal gallows at which our tragic couple meets their demise.
The album standout track is certainly “Love Dog”; its strength is fashioned by the convergence of woodwinds, strings and Adebimpe’s disconcerting lyrics of obsession. As the coda of strings and echoes closes out the song, his imagery regarding “eyes set on æther,” and emotions “sparking up” still kindle. Ultimately, Dear Science presents the kind of artistic growth that a band this talented is capable of with their inversion of style marked by precision, harmony and attention to detail. Brimming with solid music composition, haunting lyrics, emotional intensity and well-balanced production, Dear Science presents a watershed moment in TV on the Radio’s musical evolution.