It’s always going to be tough to follow a record like Dear Science. That album was nigh-on perfect, earning every one of its critical plaudits, as well as its commercial success. So, where do you go after a record almost universally acclaimed as the best of the year and their career? TV On The Radio have chosen to chill out, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Gone are the frantic beats of ‘Dancing Choose’ or ‘Halfway Home’, replaced with slower grooves and upfront vocals. Things are a touch sparer here, no longer bearing the extreme textural density that characterized its predecessors. It’s the sound of a band comfortable in their own skin, willing to let their sounds echo out into space, less of an attention-seeker, more of a smokey ‘come hither’ stare from across a room.
‘Second Song’ opens the album with warm chords and an unadorned, Bill Callahan-like vocal before the beat begins to kick in and the falsetto rises alongside the brass. What begins as a rough and spacious track ends as an updated modern funk jam with classic Motown tropes battling for space with loops and programmed beats. ‘Keep Your Heart’ is a beautiful song that carries on in the same vein, with clean guitar chords and syncopated hi-hats keeping the song moving forward as the vocals soar majestically.
The only songs that really break that mould are ‘No Future Shock’ and ‘Will Do’. The former is much filthier than the rest of the album, squelching a little in the early stages before eventually being taken over by the beat with Kyp Malone repeating ‘do the no future’ over and over. It’s just fast enough to move to, though remaining distinctly, defiantly mid-tempo throughout. ‘Will Do’ is a sweet and upbeat jam, lead single with good reason, definitely the catchiest song on show. ‘Repetition’ swings uneasily between the two poles, at once more staid with its lowly-intoned interlude and more frantic with a climactic ending.
TV On The Radio have made an album that is confident and playful, without ever being in your face. It’s a dextrous and beautiful record that does not have a bad song on it. Dear Science was a grower and the evidence would suggest that Nine Types of Light will be the same and it will not give up its secrets easily, but they will undoubtedly be worth discovering. However good this is right now, and it is very, very good right now, it will be better in a month or six. “It might be impractical to seek out a new romance”, Kyp Malone sings on ‘Will Do’ but this is a record well worth developing a long and happy relationship with.