Album Review

Album Review: TV On The Radio's 'Seeds' Makes a Giant Leap Toward the Mainstream

More than a decade after emerging from Brooklyn as a leader of the local indie renaissance, TV on the Radio could invite the kinds of criticisms often hurled at its hometown -- that it was better when it was dirtier, edgier and a little dangerous. But few fans have griped about the band's steadily increasing palatability, a testament to how gracefully it has smoothed out and streamlined its original sound, a grinding mix of noisy art-rock and grubby urban soul. Its fifth album is another successful step toward the mainstream.

TV on the Radio Sing in French on New Song 'Careful You'

Actually, Seeds is a giant leap. And not just because of how multi-instrumentalist/producer Dave Sitek builds on 2011's Nine Types of Light, keeping the poppier sheen but adding a jolt of buoyant, often major-key vitality. Three years after losing bassist Gerard Smith to lung cancer, TVOTR manages to grow from the guarded optimism of its gruff early albums to full-on hopefulness. This record buzzes with a spiritual energy that singers Babatunde Adebimpe (now based in Los Angeles, like Sitek) and Kyp Malone's howls can't obscure. "Caught up in a feeling," the former announces on "Ride," as giddy 16th-note piano recalls buddy David Bowie's "Heroes." Adebimpe follows his gut "right through the ceiling" on the song, landing on the same cloud Malone attains during the crackling synth-pop slow-burner "Love Stained." On the new-wave grown-folks club jam "Right Now," they leaflet the dancefloor with a simple inspirational message: "The moment's right now."

Tunde Adebimpe Considered Ending TV On the Radio Prior to New Album 'Seeds'

Even when revisiting their more abrasive past, they get songs like "Lazerray," a surging punk tune wherein Adebimpe declares himself a "solar flare." His performance burns a hundred times brighter than it did on "Staring at the Sun," the creepy 2004 breakout single that uses drowning as a metaphor for life or sex (or both). Ten years later, as it blasts off on new adventures, TV on the Radio is breathing easy.