Writing about TV on the Radio’s Nine Types of Light in 2011 – after it topped my albums of the year poll, I wrote: “I loved Dear Science, which was like the last half of a great house party, funky and fun but kinda morose at the same time. Nine Types of Light feels like a few hours later, where the stragglers have wandered to the beach and gathered around a small bonfire as the revelry fades.” To extend the metaphor to the group’s fifth record, Seeds, this is the aftermath, where a painful hangover is gradually overcome before greeting the late morning of an overcast Sunday.
That sense of recovery isn’t surprising, given that Seeds is the first album the group’s released since the death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011. It’s impossible to ignore the impact of Smith’s death on the record, which evolves from an exploration of grief and a celebration of life over its dozen tracks. Those tracks are sequenced very deliberately, progressing from downbeat, reflective pop into jangly, almost garage-y guitar tunes in the back half. Opening track, “Quartz,” provides an easy introduction that serves as the model for the four tracks that follow.
I’m not convinced that homogeneity is a strength.