For years i thought TV on the Radio was going to be the next huge alternative rock band, like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and the others. That didn’t happen, and in recent years the band is virtually nowhere to be found. They've gotten plenty of critical acclaim, but never quite got to the place that earlier albums seem destined for. Each album has seen the band grow in not only the musical sense, but also grow from difficult experiences, death, depression, and use all of that to become one of the most interesting, thought provoking bands I've ever heard. In preparation for the band's upcoming album, today we're talking about the top ten songs from the explosive TV on the Radio.
10 DIRTYWHIRL: RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN
The slow chatter of a tambourine starts us off, while vocalist Tunde Adebimpe gradually opens up to expose us to his sultry and prominent voice. I like the song because among all of the awesome songs on Cookie Mountain, it's one of the better examples of a mid tempo jam. It also reminds me of a glorious autumn day while you sit outside and enjoy the weather. The background vocals are also well used. You might think that mousey sounding vocals might be a little bit much, but for some reason here it works.
9 LOVE DOG: DEAR SCIENCE
Such a lovely song. When this album first came out, this was easily the most played track for me. I love the slow, hazy opening. For some reason, so much of this band reminds me of a lazy sunday. When listening to it, you can't help but imagine a sweet puppy dog crying out for nurturing and love. I'm sure that that's not what the actual song is about, but as a father to badass animals, my mind is often on my babies. Getting back to the song though, it very well might be a song about the complexities of human relationships, and the story here is about a relationship winding down. TV on the Radio, as a band tend to be a little metaphorical in the themes of their songs, and the symbolism they often use brings the listener to a sort of vague understanding of what the song is trying to convey. This isn't a bad thing at all. Oftentimes, you don't need exact meanings in songs to feel empowered by them. You just need the music and tone of the piece.
8 DLZ: DEAR SCIENCE
Everything about this song is made for a late night chill dance party. The beats open up, and before you know it bodies are swaying together in gorgeous unison. I also love the opening line of “Congratulations on the mess you made of things.” The band was heavily anti- Bush during his presidency, and knowing that, it's very easy to see this song as a critique and criticism of not just his administration, but also of the whole political system. The song continues to have a great flow to it, and at times it feels like the musicians are trying to keep up with the urgent pace of the vocals. Dave Sitek on drums also gives more weight and tension to the situation. One of the better songs on this album, “DLZ” really helps to tie the themes and emotion into a nice arrangement before the conclusion of the album finds us.
7 CAREFUL YOU: SEEDS
When you listen to a song produced by band member Dave Sitek, you should always expect some fragmentation and abstract form of mixing. “Seeds” is no exception. Musically and rhythmically the track is dance house subtle, with Tunde’s voice keeping a measured course of vocal as the bass erupts over your speakers. I still don’t know what the French phrases are, but the regret surrounding it is clear. The lyrics speak to the frustration and complexity of caring about others, and the bridges that can be made or unmade by our reckless, carelessness when it comes to other humans and how we perforce them and vice versa.
6 KILLER CRANE: NINE TYPES OF LIGHT
Here we start getting to some real emotion. This song, or at least the opening, always makes me think of the last scene in Jurassic Park where Sam Neil is watching the pelicans soar through the air. The track itself, though, is very clean and beautiful. It's one of the best songs on the highly overlooked “Nine Types of Light” record. Among positive songs, this one is at the very top. It's full of hopefulness, and the themes speak of understanding, patience, and the ability to move away from the sad events that deter our lives. It also should be mentioned this was the last album recorded with Gerard Smith, who unfortunately passed away from lung cancer. Details about how long he was sick prior to passing are vague, but it's easy to hear the somber tone of their life in the tracks on the album. However, the song remains remarkably poignant, and the visuals painted in the lyrics are some of the best of the band's entire career. R.I.P. Gerard Smith.
5 STARING AT THE SUN: DESPERATE YOUTHS,
Likely the first song many heard by this band, and after more than a decade of having this song around, it's still a really great track. The simmering intensity never rises like you thinking would, but that’s part of the excitement at not getting what you’re expecting. Upon first listen, you might think that the song will eventually pick up, but it doesn't. The lyrics are pretty tight too, and it's here where you get a brief taste of what this band is capable of. One of my favorite parts of this group is the use of metaphors and symbolism in lyrics. “Know the trees because the dirt is temporary” has and continues to be one of my favorite lines in any of the band's work.
4. PROVINCE: RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN
Finally, we find ourselves at the David Bowie featured “Province.” For a long time I had no idea it was even Bowie. His voice has a way of being present and the listener not being aware that it's him. In this instance, his contribution really helps. If not for my wife, there's no way to know how long I would have been ignorant to this presence here. Having said that, even without him the song works. So Many of their songs are midtempo, but this one is purely triumphant and overjoyed. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but for me it's a song for celebrating life and victory. Preferably on a mountain at the top of the world. The background claps are a great but subtle touch as well. The band has so many layers and different things going on, that it's hard to not get swept up into sincerity and beauty.
3 FAMILY TREE: DEAR SCIENCE
After countless listens, this song feels less like deep love or more like deep thought or regret as the time flies by. It’s musical effect is still and poignant, and although you get the sense of love in the heart of the track, the shadows of the song are aware of the imminent danger of unknown passions and attitudes. It’s like a beautiful breakup that no one wanted but one that everyone knows is for the best. That type of thought is hidden in the messaging, and even as the track ends and we’re hopeful for celebrations, you never know what the future will hold, so protection of our loved ones, and of our “family trees” are essential to a full joyous journey through this thing we call life.
2 YOUNG LIARS: TV ON THE RADIO EP
This song has a weird, ominous vibe to it, but it still sounds exactly like the band we’ve come to expect. It's interesting that the track wasn't ever used on a full length album, because it's good enough, if not better than many of the still cool tracks on the full lengths. Another downbeat song that doesn't even reach an apex, “Young Liars” is song that doesn't make a lot of sense lyrically, but it's a cool ass track regardless. The interesting thing about this and though, is that they aren't really the same on albums as they are live. Live it's very emotional and bounce, and at all the shows I've seen them perform you're drawn to the upbeat dancing happening. They somehow find a way to make a relaxed downtempo album song into an upbeat, energetic live song, and while i'm not sure how they pull it off so flawlessly, I'm not complaining.
1 WOLF LIKE ME: RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN
Probably one of the best uses of a song I've ever seen in a tv show was during the firehouse drama “Rescue Me” where the episode closed with Dennis Leary's character sprinting down the street with this song noisily breaking barriers behind him. Beyond the usage in the show, it's an incredible song, and as you can see, my favorite by the band. For a band who does slower, more textured songs, this song is urgent, angry, and even more textured than the vast majority of their other works. It's a song full of dancing motives, and the lyrics are some of the most concise to date. It's not as subtle and metaphorical as other tracks, but here it really works. The song at once seems to be very much about transforming into a beast, and in a sense it is. The beast is probably not a werewolf though. I think the beast in the question is humanity's need to feed on the less capable, and how it's shaping our world to be a ruthless ugly place. Hopefully it's not too late, we can stop ourselves from “Howling Forever.”
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
Are you looking for the old Wordpress blog posts?