TV on the Radio were Brooklyn before Brooklyn was Brooklyn. A decade before the borough became known for louche hipsterism and artisanal pickles, it was merely a cheap(er) place for artists to live and create — artists like singer Tunde Adebimpe and producer Dave Sitek. Joined by later recruits Kyp Malone (guitar, falsetto) and ace rhythm section Gerard Smith and Jaleel Bunton, they managed to blend a fondness for early-’80s art-funk with a distinctly millennial electronic embrace. The quintet’s resulting albums, including 2008’s critically adored Dear Science, resonated beyond their area code with songs that fidgeted with a glorious tension — caught, like the country, between protesting and partying.
On Nine Types of Light, the band sounds more interested in settling down than getting down, and at first the change is jarring. Grown-up slow jams like the lilting ”Will Do” raise fears of thirtysomething compromise: an IKEA couch here, a banjo-filled ode to the countryside there. (”Sunshine, I saw you through the hanging vine,” Adebimpe coos on ”Killer Crane.” Back to the city, hippie!) But like true New Yorkers, TVOTR can’t keep their neuroses hidden for long: ”New Cannonball Blues” squawks and rumbles like an elevated subway line, while the jittery ”Repetition” frets over a noisy neighbor’s relative coolness. Still, Light shines brightest when it mellows. On the soaring ”Keep Your Heart,” as the band tastefully freaks behind him, Adebimpe serenades a hookup like a dirty Dr. Strangelove: When he finally learns to stop worrying, it’s the bomb. B+
Nine Types of Light