REVIEW: TV On The Radio – “Seeds”

“Seeds”, the long awaited fifth studio album from TV On The Radio, is a return after three years without a full length project. In the course of three years, a lot can happen to a band, and that is evident on this release. While they had been through a lot collectively, dealing with the death of former bassist Gerard Smith shortly after their 2011 album, “Nine Types of Light” was released, their songwriting also takes a turn over the course of three years. The end result is “Seeds” an at-times-triumphant return to the top of the indie world for the band. Always with an eclectic mix of styles, TV On The Radio expand even further with “Seeds”.

The album begins with “Quartz”, and while it wastes no time bringing you into the record, it is a bit lackluster at face value. It serves best if you think of it as the album’s intro track. The better part of the next hour is will spin you all sorts of ways, so a mid-tempo buildup is just what you’ll need. The second track, “Careful You”, is just the opposite; you instantly know that it is going to be a fun song from the second the opening synths kick in. It’s a dizzying blend of buzzing synths, effected vocals, and at times sounds like something comedian Reggie Watts would come up with on the fly on stage (which is a complement, really. Both Reggie and TV On The Radio are awesome.) “Could You” is vastly different from the previous track, with a very bright, poppy sound, almost like the Beach Boys with some adrenaline shots. At only three tracks in, there isn’t any real direction, and it only goes off from there.

Single “Happy Idiot”, however, finally puts pieces from the previous tracks together, blending the analog and digital into a cool, grooving track that fits the classic three-minute single formula. But then just after that, the tempo drops a bit on “Test Pilot” and “Love Stained”. Throughout this, TV On The Radio fail to lose their luster. Both tracks hold their own with darker, digital-led sounds of their own. By now, you should just expect the next song to be completely different from the last.

“Ride”, which clocks in at six and half minutes long, is a bit of a journey of a song. With a dramatic intro, the song builds up the album, which was beginning to hit a lull. The track actually serves as a bit of a wedge between the front and back ends of the album. To add to the madness, “Winter” is an unusual curveball of a song. With a first verse comprising of only vocals and a distorted guitar, it sounds like it is going to be a straight-up generic rock song, only to be complemented by bouncing 808 drums.

While that song was a tease, “Lazzerray” is exactly the rock song that you think “Winter” will be. “Lazzerray” would be fitting on a early punk record, and somehow also feels right on an indie album in 2014.

Things mellow out on the final two tracks, “Trouble”, and the title track. It’s a fitting close to the project as a whole. “Trouble” is the slower of the two, and could easily be the ender in it’s own right, but “Seeds” is more of a showcase. In a way, the title track is a retrospective of the previous 48 minutes of music; a fitting end to the rollercoaster ride that had preceded it.

The biggest problem of this record is it’s disjointedness. In a way, “Seeds” is all over the place, without drifting too far in any one particular direction. There’s a variety of influence that pops up throughout this record. Sometimes it feels a little like Vampire Weekend, other times Elvis Costello, and other times Yeezus-era Kanye West. With that said, though, no individual track brings this album down. It’s all solid, dynamic work from a band that has made their name for being trailblazers. “Seeds” doesn’t disappoint from start to finish. Check out the album below: