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New Album Review

88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 11/18/08

‘Dear Science’ another triumph for TV On The Radio
Jon Gomes
DJ, WKNC 88.1 FM

TV On The Radio is a musical force to be reckoned with. Since the release of Young Liars EP in 2003, the experimental Brooklyn-based group has made three highly lauded albums. Their latest effort, Dear Science, follows up on 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, which topped several critics’ lists. The new album sheds the density of its predecessor in favor of a more flavored, balanced sound.

The music on Dear Science is a confluence of funky synth hooks, visceral Afrobeat rhythms and sexy horns—all presented in a well-produced package. Atop this amalgamation, vocalist Tunde Adebimpe lays down impassioned lyrics, adding swagger to heavier tracks and depth to the slower ones. Falsetto accents and an infectious vocal melody underlie the opener “Halfway Home,” a smoldering surf-rock-inspired number that climaxes into chaos towards the coda. The album quickly shifts gears with the laid-back groove of “Crying,” and again with the frenetic “Dancing Choose.” In the latter, purring synths bolster insistent rap verses and brazen, horn-laden choruses.

Dear Science reverts to a more relaxed sound for the next few tracks. A swaying beat and layered strings lend themselves to the sublime mood of “Stork and Owl.” Rhythms tense up for “Golden Age,” which showcases TV On The Radio’s skill in weaving horns and strings into songs. However, the album’s true highlight lies in the next track, a poignant, string-driven ballad entitled “Family Tree.” Adebimpe’s layered vocals and poetic lyrics add to the song’s beauty—ethereal, but not in the typical ambient post-rock sense.

The warmth quickly melts away with the biting and angular “Red Dress.” Featuring incredibly funky chicken-scratch guitar and syncopated African-flavored beats, it is easily the most aggressive song on the album. The brassy, in-your-face chorus complements the snarled lyrics. Yet another musical transition occurs with the swoopy and airy “Love Dog.” The next song, “Shout Me Out,” is one of the most dynamic tracks on the album. Brooding, guitar-driven verses smolder before erupting into a triumphant, percussive movement halfway into the song.

Smooth and relaxed, “DLZ” stands out for its excellent lyrics. Adebimpe’s talent for writing is evident with lines, such as “This is beginning to feel like the long-winded blues of the never / Barely controlled locomotive consuming the picture and blowing the crows, the smoke.” Dear Science comes to a pleasant close with “Lover’s Day,” a galloping track that epitomizes the group’s composite sound. The song tapers to stripped vocals and horns over a driving drum beat, a contrast from the opening track.

As a whole, Dear Science has the hallmarks of a five-star album. Every track is distinct but consistent in quality. The lyrical work is novel and exploratory. And it simply sounds good—the production by band member Dave Sitek is stellar. The album’s only questionable aspect is flow and the frequent changes in mood between songs. Regardless, there is not a solid reason why Dear Science isn’t worthwhile. To understand the buzz about TV On The Radio, just listen to their latest release.

88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.

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