New (to me) Music: TV on the Radio

About five or six years ago, my old friend Josh kept telling me about this band that he and his siblings were hooked on. The band was called TV on the Radio. At the time I listened to a lot of radio rock and so I didn’t pay any attention to this band because I had never heard of them. Foolish me.

Recently, I started listening to TV on the Radio at work (when Taylor‘s iPod is there for me to peruse). After listening to Dear Science and some of their newest album, Nine Types of Light, I have realized why Josh was hooked all those years ago: this band is great!

TV on the Radio hails from Brooklyn, New York. Since 2003, they have put out four critically acclaimed studio albums (2008’s Dear Science garnered a rare 9.2/10.0 from the notoriously picky Pitchfork reviewers). Their sound mixes elements of rock, funk, and soul. But what I like most about their music is its atmosphere. Like Radiohead, TV on the Radio is one of those bands that writes moods more than songs.

Case in point: here is a hauntingly beautiful performance of their new single “Will Do” on Letterman. It’s even better than the album version. The performance is especially meaningful, given that band member Gerard Smith died of lung cancer just six days after it was recorded.

And here is “Halfway Home,” the opening track from Dear Science, which showcases the band’s ability to communicate emotion and build a mood. The guitar part running through the background of the song creates an eerie tension, bordering on paranoia, which continues throughout the rest of the album and unites the music thematically. Plus it’s got hand claps!

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