Sometime during their year-long hiatus, it seems, TV on the Radio reached middle age. On their new album Nine Types of Light, they’ve left behind much of their scorching passion and lyrical venom for a sense of quiet romanticism. Though the mood is somewhat melancholic, the album is neither anemic nor listless. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe has shed his trademark anguished howls for quiet contemplation, which feels like natural evolution for a band that has earned the right to some mid-life reflection.
Lead single “Will Do,” is a slow burning brooder, an album highlight and one of the best tracks of the year. The band’s characteristically processed guitars and syncopated rhythms take a backseat to Adebimpe’s impassioned pleas to an absent lover: “Any time will do, my love, any time will do/What choice of words will take me back to you?”
Occasionally, the band’s more manic tendencies arise. The frenzied “Repetition” is a catchy dance number that showcases TVOTR’s considerable rhythmic talents and free-form, jazz-influenced instrumentation. But these are interspersed and bookended with introspective pieces like the lush, elegiac “Forgotten,” a minimalist piece that centers upon soft vocals and a gradual, sweeping orchestral build. This emphasis on string instrumentation colors the entire album with a sense of wistfulness, and is perhaps its most surprising aspect: the central ballad “Killer Crane” is dominated by a suite of woodwinds and, of all things, a delicately picked banjo.
In the process of making the album, TV on the Radio appears to have turned from hardened cynicism to at least cautious optimism. While it may lack the immediate, visceral punch of their previous masterpieces Return to Cookie Mountain and Dear Science, Nine Types of Light represents a well-deserved catharsis following a career of unbridled fury and scorn.