Another stint in their 12-year, voltaic art-rock career, Seeds is TV on the Radio’s pulsating, public re-entry by way of new, pleasant discombobulation. It’s also their first work in three years, following the loss of bassist Gerard Smith to cancer during the release of Nine Types of Light (2011). The EP runs the instrumental gamut, from handbell-tinkling, distorted-rock samplings (“Quartz”) to REM-ish moments of bubbly, early-90s alternative (“Could You”, “Lazzeray”). For exploratory rock sound with Bowie-weird dabblings, you can count on the production knack of Tunde Adebimpe and affiliates to reaffirm the band’s avant-garde credibility. And the kind that’s not just cluttered with disoriented instruments and gaudy, EDM-DJ overwork–but listenability.
“How much do I love you? How hard must we try?/To set into motion, a love divine” is pretty heavy an intro for a band mostly known for making messy beats and trailing off into esoteric indie-speak, but that’s Seeds‘ opening line. “Quartz”, with its jungle percussion and layered chant invitation, feels homey immediately.
Seeds seems to be TV on the Radio’s ‘picking up the pieces’ comeback; and though it doesn’t get overly mushy in substance or sounds, it’s strikingly more delicate than its clattery predecessor. This softer approach, observed in the album’s large population of love songs and general surge of ambience, seems to mold the group into something dreamier than ever. Even “Happy Idiot”, though a tongue-in-cheek ode to love naivety, has a pervading sweetness to its punchy, Arcade Fire-esque flavor.
“Love Stained” finds TV on the Radio mellowed out, between sizzling background synths and starkly beautiful oohs that would make Bloc Party proud, all the while delivering an upbeat alloy of electronic and indie. Adebimpe’s romanticism repeats, but doesn’t tire itself out; “I’m looking into your eyes to feel your call/Pretty thing that catches me so strong when I fall…”.
“Seeds”, a shoegaze resurfacing, closes the album in the same way that most of the 12 tracks operate: romantically. Fixed on stammering whirs and fluttery lasers, the title track follows in the footsteps of several other, similarly dimensional songs (“Test Pilot”, “Right Now”).
Seeds, by no means a TV on the Radio classic, has a white-noise, calmative effect beneath its otherwise progressive rock exterior, and one that allows for lovey tracks to settle in without dislike or loss of artsy expectation from the group. A mingling of human feeling—whether residual from Smith’s passing, or from heartbreak in general—is unmistakeable, no matter how mechanized the beat or dazing the synths. Electronic without sacrificing emotion, the Brooklyn foursome once again reminds us why they’re the right anomaly for indie and rock.
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