Tag Archives: TV on the Radio

January in singles: Not-so-new names for a new year

TV on the RadioWe might have a fresh, shiny new year on our hands, but there was a distinct lack of fresh, shiny new talent among the pile of plastic I had to review for my monthly singles column in The Skinny magazine. That’s not to say it was one big ear assault though…

Travis have moved on from the traditional method of singing pop songs for other people. Now they sing a Song To Self (**, 5 Jan). Like much of their output since The Man Who, it’s inoffensive and melodious but largely forgettable, so just as well no-one’s listening.

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Poll of polls, or, Best of the best-of-2008 album countdowns

A music writer casts his voteConfession: I’ve had some free time lately.

I had to use up the rest of my holiday entitlement before 2008 was out, so I now find myself with nine days of welcome but unproductive home-time in mid-December.

My internet browsing is on the high end of the scale at the busiest of times, so inevitably my modem has been working overtime as I endlessly, inanely surf the web in search of… what?

News, snippets of useless information, Wikipedia facts about minor film actors, the mindnumbing allure of Facebook, the still mystifying appeal of Twitter… and best-of-2008 music polls.

And so I’ve been wondering about year-end polls:

Are they reliable barometers of the very best music created over the past twelve months?

Or…

Are they totally whimsical, subjective, indulgent, show-off lists by various cliques of self-important critics who sneer at mainstream taste?

It’s the latter, of course. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t completely bloody addictive. I have found myself scouring music websites from the other side of the Atlantic desperately seeking out that essential album that somehow escaped my attention.

So to take the poll theme to a whole new level, here’s my poll of the best and worst polls of the year!

The Best

5. Rolling Stone: Props on TV on the Radio, but otherwise a bit tokenistic along the beardy rawk/hip-hop/legends lines. Turned me on to Blitzen Trapper though.

4. Pitchfork Reader’s Poll: Can’t really argue, other than point out its obvious American folksy prejudice.

3. Times: Surprisingly well-informed for a Murdoch rag.

2. Drowned in Sound: Friendly Fires should never be in the top ten, but good to see my #2 choice M83 top a poll.

1. The Skinny: OK, maybe I have to say this, but we really hit the nail on the head again this year, even if my nomination for Late of the Pier unsurprisingly missed the cut! Year of the Rabbit indeed.

The Worst

3. musicOMH: I don’t care how well-intentioned the poll is if they put Elbow at the top.

2. Last FM: Coldplay. Best album of the year? Really?

1. Q magazine: Kings of Leon. Best album of the year? Really?

And is this really the definitive poll of the year, with the top three comprising artists I’ve barely heard of? Surely not!

(I still have a few more days off. Maybe I’ll compile a poll of the best Poles of the year now…)

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Best albums of 2008: TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio - Dear Science,

My other contribution to The Skinny‘s top ten albums of 2008. This made #3 in the collective poll.

The title of TV On The Radio’s third album offers a small insight into the kind of intellectual japes behind their creative process. Dear Science, (the comma is intended, punctuation fans) was the opening gambit of a letter written by guitarist Dave Sitek that he posted on the wall of his Brooklyn studio during recording. It demanded of science itself that it “fix all the things you’re talking about” or shut up. Although playful, it demonstrates the band’s artistic integrity: they may ply their trade on the creative side of the fence, but they’re still looking over to the other side expectantly.

But what of all this talk that TVotR have mellowed since Return to Cookie Mountain? Remnants of that album’s worldly frustration can still be heard on the incendiary Dancing Choose or in the existential numbness of Red Dress:

Hey jackboot, fuck your war / ‘Cause I’m fat and in love And no bombs are fallin’ on me for sure / But I’m scared to death that I’m livin’ a life not worth dyin’ for.”

For the most part Dear Science, loosens the coils of angst and sonic density the band once wound so tight; like Talking Heads before them, TVotR realise that funk stylings don’t necessarily entail dumb fun music. Crying finds Tunde Adebimpe trying on his best Prince falsetto, while Golden Age employs a catchy off-beat guitar hook. This new-found peppiness doesn’t always work – Stork And Owl and Shout Me Out are the only fillers – but this enormously talented quintet have still delivered on the daunting expectation they set themselves in 2006. Dear Indie Rock, you’ve got some catching up to do.

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TV on the Radio @ ABC, Glasgow, 16 Nov

TV on the Radio @ ABC

I went to a cracking gig on Sunday night. TV on the Radio have been producing some of the most forward-thinking, ballsy indie rock of the past five years. True, their new album is decidedly ‘poppy’ (by their standards) but this was still a superb performance – and not even the fool near me shouting ‘Fray Bentos!’ at select moments could detract from it. Here’s my review for The Skinny:

Rating: ****

It’s a testament to the full-blooded intensity of their music that a line of fans snakes along the street outside the ABC to watch TV on the Radio, an under-publicized, experimental rock band from the other side of the Atlantic. Mention their name and you’ll probably receive a blank look from Joe Public, but the paid-up aficionados here tonight react to every rasping word from Tunde Adebimpe’s mouth, every reverberated thrash from Dave Sitek’s guitar and every frenetic rhythm. It doesn’t matter that they open with a pair of their early, lesser known tracks: this is vital, important, electrifying; and when the truly feral Wolf Like Me rears its head four songs in it’s a moment to be savoured. New songs from Dear Science dominate the set, and while Red Dress and Dancing Choose find the pogo-ing Adebimpe at his strained best, the epic Halfway Home is a glaring omission. Still, this is a minor complaint from a major gig.

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