Sound — 8
TV On The Radio formed in 2001, and have released a fairly unique brand of indie rock since that time. They have collaborated in one form or another with David Bowie, Nick Zinner and Trent Reznor, to name just a few. The band went on a hiatus in 2009 after touring for their album "Dear Science," and when the hiatus ended in 2011, their bass player, Gerard Smith, was diagnosed with cancer and died just a few months later. This resulted in another unofficial hiatus, though by 2013 the band was once again headlining festivals, beginning with the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in England. The band's fifth studio album, "Seeds," contains 12 tracks and clocks in at approximately 52 minutes. The album followed the release of the lead single, "Happy Idiot," which was released in September 2014.
The album opens up with the track, "Quartz," which uses a lot of choral voices, humming and hand-clapping and some simple percussion to create a "live jam" type of feel to the track. I would love to hear this song performed live by the band. "Careful You" is the second track on the album, and it is pretty much a synthpop song straight out of the gate, with vocals in French (I think?) and English. "Could You" is a more traditional pop rock song to the point where it actually almost sounds like a B-side from a Beatles album. "Happy Idiot" is the lead single from the album, and it sounds like a lot of popular modern music but with a twist of funk and synthpop going on - almost a Gorillaz type of vibe. "Test Pilot" starts out with electronic elements really stressed immediately on the track, with some lo-fi electric drums being the most prominent feature of the track, and a loud impactful chorus. "Love Stained" is another synthpop track, and it is one of the smoother, "easy listening" type of tracks on the album, until it gets a little bit weird later in the track. "Ride" opens up as a piano driven track, and also incorporates some orchestral strings, before opening up into a more conventional and "happy" pop song somewhere around the middle. "Right Now" would be some kind of electro-funk pop type of track, to just string together several adjectives that roughly describe the track. "Winter" is a guitar driven track, with some cranked-up overdriven fuzz, but the vocals are almost delivered in a way more suited to modern funk. "Lazerray" is one of the more chaotic and pulsing tracks on the album, with a sense of urgency running through it, and driven by guitars and (what I believe to be) real drums. "Trouble" is predominantly acoustic guitar and keys, with some simple singing that really carries that track. The album closes out with the title track, "Seeds," which has a voice, a synth and some programmed lo-fi drums, with other instrumentation making small cameos in the song. It is a good track to close the album out on.
Lyrics — 8
The vocals on the album are provided by Tunde and Kyp with other band members and "touring" members providing additional backing vocals. Tunde and Kyp both do a great job, though I honestly don't know which is which when I listen to the album. While I've previously only had limited exposure to TV On The Radio, I can really get behind the vocal performances on "Seeds," and especially in the way the backing vocals are used. As a sample of the lyrical content, here are some lyrics from the single, "Happy Idiot": "Stuck in the shade/ Where there's no sunshine/ I don't wanna play/ With them other kids in the sun/ Since you left me, babe/ It's been a long way down/ Yeah, you left me, babe/ It's been a long way down/ What you don't know won't hurt you, yeah/ Ignorance is bliss/ I'm a happy idiot/ Waving at cars/ I'm gonna bang my head to the wall/ Till I feel like nothing at all/ I'm a happy idiot/ To keep my mind off you/ Stuck in a daze and I've lost my mind/ I don't wanna stay/ Where the blame's all mine." Can't really complain about the vocals.
Overall Impression — 8
The band has been very enthusiastic in their own descriptions of "Seeds," with Tunde actually stating that this album is by far the best thing the band has ever done - having listened to this album several times now, I'm inclined to agree. It definitely has a type of vibe to the album, where it feels like a group effort between the members, and it feels more alive than a lot of the rock music coming out lately. The great thing about TV On The Radio, is from song to song there is a lot of diversity in their sound. They do a lot of things well. If I picked my favorite tracks from the album I would have to say "Quartz," "Happy Idiot" and "Lazerray." There aren't any tracks I dislike on the album - it actually flows from beginning to end very well.