Tunde Adebimpe’s voice is a marvelous instrument. It twitters, blusters, croons, spits, and leaps its way through the curious terrain that is TV on the Radio’s Nine Types of Light. Adebimpe manages to be equally successful moaning the hazy, foreboding “Forgotten” and angrily accusing screw-ups in “No Future Shock.” Yet where he really shines is on “Keep Your Heart,” a passionate promise to a lover. Instead of belting or sighing as in most conventional love songs, Adebimpe allows his voice to drunkenly stumble and quiver, overwhelmed by his emotion and in a semi-coherent stupor.
The joy present in “Keep Your Heart” is a common theme in Nine Types of Light, which is TVOTR’s most buoyant and warm album to date. “Second Song” begins the record affirmingly with jubilant pop piano, enthusiastic horns, and a strong beat. This is the least restrained expression of elation on the whole disc, but different shadings of the same mood appear throughout. Gentle love is expressed on the single “Will Do,” which is the equivalent of a cool night breeze. “You” displays forgotten happiness with Passion Pit-style keyboards and swooshes of synth. “Killer Crane” is an indie rock paean to nature laden with romantic imagery, thick strings, and a twangy guitar. The deluxe edition ends with a quiet sort of joy in “All Falls Down,” which features deep, wise vocals that call to mind an omniscient narrator. Rounding out the set are the gritty, beat-heavy “New Cannonball Blues,” “Repetition,” which is garage rock with a characteristic TVOTR bouncy bass line, and the only weak song on the album “Caffeinated Conciousness,” full of righteous cheering and rough guitars.
TVOTR have always produced idiosyncratic yet danceable, mainstream works. But in Nine Types of Light their occasionally erratic, disparate style has become refined and unified. As a result, the album feels like more of a whole and the sporadic experimentalism isn’t jarring but instead contributes to a unique experience with a constant thread of joyful brightness. That theme of radiance is refracted through a prism and emerges in nuanced gradations as the brilliant Nine Types of Light.
My first album review. Don’t judge, they’ve gotten a bit better since then.