I’m not a girl that likes surprises. Well, to be honest, saying that simplifies a much more complicated design flaw in my personality that I’m sure people in my life find endearing and not at all annoying. I actually love surprises, I just don’t ever want to know a surprise is coming. It’s the loss of control. It’s the horrible anticipation of the unknown when I know there is something I don’t know that I can’t take. Surprise me with a surprise and I’m all yours. It’s the “I know something you don’t know” part that will have me crying in my wardrobe panicking over what to wear or begging you to tell me whatever it is I absolutely cannot be told. Out of the blue surprises though? I’m your girl. And TV On The Radio’s new album Seeds was the best kind of out of the blue surprise.
The boys from Brooklyn have been on a three year hiatus, following the tragic death of bass player Gerard Smith, losing his battle with cancer in 2011. Knowing this album was the first record since his passing, I was prepared for a heartbreaking collection of songs full of bleak and lovely sentiments that would send me down an emotional spiral of sadness and loss. Winter was coming, and I was bunkered down and ready, armed with a box of Kleenex and a bottle of red. But what came was the loveliest of surprises. Seeds is not the black hole of despair I had predicted, but a bright, optimistic look to the future with themes of hope, healing and starting over.
And the surprises didn’t stop there, with the track listing itself throwing curveball after curveball. From the chanty, African sounding clap in opening track Quartz, the early Beatle’s, 60’s vibe in Could You to the quirky, catchy and cool feel of party track Right Now, TVOTR have reminded us to expect the unexpected from these indie rock veterans. A far cry from 2008’s Dear Science, the quartet have produced a record that balances a new sound while perfectly fitting in to the greater art that is their catalogue. Simultaneously sounding brand new and typical.
Newly released single Happy Idiot is special, bright and fast paced in contrast to a somewhat lazy vocal, while Lazerray made my day by channeling The Ramones. Test Pilot topped my list though, sounding most like what I expected to find on this record. Immediately emotionally provocative, lyrically beautiful, with lovely off beat vocals and gorgeous use of falsetto it still managed to surprise me. This one came out of nowhere for me and is perhaps Tunde Adebimpe’s most impressive vocal performance yet. Ride is the track that embodies the spirit of the album the best, and in fact the entire process of making this album. Moving from a gloomy opener heavy with low piano chords, before crashing into the peppy, infectious melody it speaks to a group of men who have been through their darkest days and are looking forward to a hopeful and happy future. It makes perfect sense.
Title track Seeds says it better than any, in the poignant and beautiful lyric Rain domes down like it always does / This time I’ve got seeds on the ground. Their fifth studio record is all about healing, growing and finding the silver lining. These men are making a new kind of normal, where it is their standard to be different. The peppy feel to Seeds is surprisingly unsurprising, and that genuinely surprised me.