TV on the Radio: Dear Science

Over the last five years, Brooklyn's TV on the Radio has succeeded in making weird sounds relatively accessible, garnering that much-coveted "art-rock" designation. Yet seemingly cognizant of how "played" that distinction may be, the band's third full-length, Dear Science, is a noticeable shift away from driving guitars to a more "art-pop" sound. Upbeat, horn- and string-lined arrangements give vocalist Tunde Adebimpe's falsetto a softer feel, as does guitarist Kyp Malone's heftier, deeper vocal presence. Whereas the crunchy guitars of TV's past three records made Adebimpe seem a bit on the abrasive side, the dancey, electro-club feel of "Golden Age" and "Crying" sound much lighter — as if he were having fun. "Shout Me Out" and opener "Halfway Home" both rely more on their rhythms (both real and manufactured-sounding) for their hooks, immediately cueing the listener that this is, you know, a TV on the Radio album. And maybe that's because Adebimpe is like no other vocalist out there today. With Dear Science, they've done the nearly impossible — made an album that doesn't sound redundant, for themselves or the worlds they exist in. Like all good pop records, a few ballads make their way into the set: the melodic, string-heavy "Family Tree" and the piano-driven "Love Dog." But where slow jams can be heavy on the cheese, neither bogs the record down. Ultimately, TV on the Radio has managed to transform their energy into something accessibly but still uniquely theirs. David Bowie would be proud.

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Michael D. Ayers