TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light Review

What a year this is for moody/bleak/eclectic/electric-infused rock music!  I honestly don’t even know what to call this hybrid of sounds and styles.  Three great practitioners of this new form have released albums this year, My Morning Jacket (Circuital), Radiohead (King of Limbs) and TV on the Radio (Nine Types of Light).

TV on the Radio’s new album is the most enjoyable release of the year, and I doubt it’ll be topped.  Radiohead’s King of Limbs, being a mellow, non-abrasive album, is a great album to chill out listening to, something to turn on when you’re doing otherwise boring chores.  TV on the Radio on the other hand has an infective energy about it–it’s the sort of thing you can dance to or listen to while exercising.  I haven’t yet bought My Morning Jacket’s Circuital, but it’s on the top of my list.

TV on the Radio made a bold choice with this album: the same day the album was released, they put a 60 minute video on Youtube containing a music video for every song, meaning you could potentially hear the entire album for free.  You’ll probably want to buy it though, and have it on your mp3 player.  Those on the fence about TV on the Radio should listen to at least some of the songs.  Here’s the sixty minute video.

My favorite track from the album is No Future Shock.  It has a sort of spastic amphetamine tempo that I haven’t heard since Elvis Costello in his younger years put out Pump it Up and (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.  If that weren’t enough, the chorus involves shouting “Do the no future…”  bringing back–finally!–the acerbic punkiness of The Sex Pistols when they sang “no future” over and over again in Anarchy in the UK.

This isn’t an album where you should just download the singles.  This is an album where it’s best heard all together.  With so many albums, bands put a lot of work into the singles, then just shlep the other tracks together, or they assemble a bunch of songs without thinking about the album as a whole.  Nine Types of Light reminds me of listening to a Dylan album or–more closely–of listening to Radiohead’s In Rainbows or OK Computer.  All of the songs fit together, and one segues into the other.  Not only that, but they contain similar thematic material.  How to describe it?  The songs from what I can gather are about holding onto love in a dystopian future (that’s actually the present).

Here’s one thing I’ll say about the album: you don’t necessarily need to get the Deluxe edition.  For a few bucks more, the deluxe edition offers the song Will Do with two extra remixes.  One of the versions (called the Switch remix) sounds like the kind of music Kanye West should be making, if he weren’t too busy making cameos in Katy Perry songs (why was that necessary?).  The other remix is a dancehall remix, which is weird because the song is already fit for dancing.  The dancehall remix is my least favorite track–it involves things the rest of the album rightly avoids, for example, autotune.  My suggestion: get the album in it’s original ten track form, because if you’re like me and listen to albums the entire way through, you’ll weary of hearing the same song three times over and over.  Instead, consider just downloading the remixes and keeping them separate.

Do you have any other recommendations of bands that sound like Radiohead/TV on the Radio?  I already listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and stuff like that.  Don’t say Fleet Foxes.  For some reason, the internet keeps telling me to listen to Fleet Foxes because I like Radiohead–I just don’t hear a real similarity.

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