I remember buying Tv On The Radio‘s 3rd album, “Return to Cookie Mountain”, after reading a comment from David Bowie saying it was one of the best new bands he had heard. As I’ve always admired the Thin White Duke’s avant-garde taste in music, I didn’t think twice and purchased it. But after listening to it a few times, it didn’t resonate to me, and I set it aside. My next contact with the band would be in December 2014 when I received “Seeds”, released by Harvest Records.

To my surprise, the band has changed a lot and now does a lot if very catchy tunes. A few brilliant ones. The first single Happy Idiot is one of the strongest songs of the whole year with its upbeat romantic spleen. This is what happens when creative musicians decide to create a massive pop hit, with authentic emotion driving the song.

What surprised me the most is that “Seeds” is an album about being heartbroken. From the initial lyrics on the weird opener Quartz (“How Much Do I Love You / How Much Should I Try”) to the declaration Careful You (that rimes with “Care for you”), everything is about love – or lost love. Test Pilot is very clearly a sad song about a difficult breakup. I’ll have to go back to the previous recordings of the band to explore if this is a recurrent theme or a first. Trouble, the 3rd single from the album, isn’t a happy song.

Musically, TV on the Radio didn’t lose an inch of their eccentricity, even though they gained a lot in the “catchiness” of their song writing. Could You is a blend of Stax soul, with the whole brass kit, and California folk rock à la Byrds! Chorus are carefully done on all tracks, capitalizing on the band’s 14 year experience and savoir-faire. Love Stained uses many keyboard effects to wrap Tunde Adebimpe’s sensible singing. It’s not that far from Bowie’s early 2000 recordings, where you could appreciate high-tech machinery supporting his voice. Chilly Gonzalez recorded a piano instrumental version of Test Pilot, underlining the beautiful melody. Listen to it here.

The band suffered the loss of their bass man, Gerard Smith, who passed away in 2011 at the young age of 36, due to lung cancer. Deeply wounded by his death, the remaining members of the Brooklyn-based band took a break and regrouped before recording “Seeds”. He wasn’t replaced, Kyp Malone added bass duties on top of handling keyboards. The sound quality if this album is exceptionally good, from the first to the last track.

By the way, have you recognized the driver in the Happy Idiot clip? It’s Paul Reubens, aka Pee-Wee Herman!

TV ON THE RADIO
Seeds
(Harvest Records, 2014)

-Genre: alternative rock
-In the same mood as Arcade Fire, Damon Albarn, The Books

Follow the band via their Facebook page
Listen to videos on the band’s YouTube channel

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier

Mélomane invétéré plongeant dans tous les genres et époques, Nicolas Pelletier a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts depuis 1991, dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie "Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique" en 2013, lance le site RREVERB en 2014, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016. Il dirige maintenant la stratégie numérique d'ICI Musique, la radio musicale de Radio-Canada.