Getting back to the Greatest American Band debate, today I'm going to nominate a band that's only been around for a little less than 10 years, but I feel like they're on the verge of becoming one of, not only the greatest American bands, but just one of the greatest bands of all time.
I found out about this band in 2006, and since then, I've been a huge, huge fan. Their debut album, "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes" had me on the name alone, but after listening to it over and over again, I was immediately hooked. I'm of course speaking of TV on the Radio. I know that they're fairly newish, they've been around for almost a decade like I said earlier, but they're so innovative, and just really, really good musicians. TV on the Radio formed in New York, Brooklyn to be exact, but they didn't release the aforementioned "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes" until 2004. They had released one EP before, entitled "Young Liars", and it's awesome, but it doesn't even begin to show you how great of a band they are. "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes" was like nothing I'd ever heard before. I heard one of the songs on MTV2, when they still played music videos, "Staring at the Sun", and it was everything I wanted it to be. It was emo, alternative, bluesy and very rock and roll. I love "Staring at the Sun", it was my gateway to TVOTR. What made this album so unique was all the different genres they showcased. Songs like "Ambulance", with Tunde Adebimpe singing acapella and the band giving him an almost doo wop background was incredible. "Poppy" is a 7 minute epic that builds and builds and builds to an epic awesome rock and roll ending. "Bomb Yourself" and "Wear You Out" are two great ending songs to this album. Both songs are like the band King Crimson came back together, found the fountain of youth and played their songs a bit more listener friendly. The guitars are distorted and funky, but not as hazardous to your ears as some King Crimson tunes are. This album came out of nowhere and I still love it as much today as I did in 2004.
They followed "Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes" up with the fantastic "Return to Cookie Mountain". This album couldn't be more different than their debut, but that's a good thing because, it showed that they had range. They could play more than alt rock music. Take a tune like, "Wolf Like Me". Sure, it's got heavy guitars on it, but it's almost played like a radio song. It's got a great chorus, and Tunde's vocals are absolutely incredible. The opener, "I Was A Lover", features lead guitarist, Kyp Malone, providing lead vocals, and he's just as good a singer as Tunde, he's just different. There's also a really cool, really odd drum beat as well. On "A Method" and "Dirtywhirl", we get a glimpse of what they will sound like on future records with their big booming guitars and their really cool instrumentation. Tunde sings both of these songs and his vocals are perfection, especially on "Dirtywhirl". Another song sung by Kyp Malone, "Blues From Down Here", is really, really good. It starts out with Malone singing solo, no instruments and then pow, it hits you with fuzzy guitars and loud drums. The chorus is really catchy and memorable. It's an awesome song.
In 2008, TVOTR came out with their most critically acclaimed album yet. They released "Dear Science" and in 2008, Rolling Stone named it Album of the Year. This record is a masterpiece. TVOTR is crushing it on every level on this album. "Halfway Home", the opener is an awesome rock and roll song. Great distorted guitars, a really nice drum beat and great vocals from Tunde. "Dancing Choose", their "single" from this record is a really good song. It has elements of rock, alternative and even a little bit of jazziness to it. "Golden Age" is a phenomenal song that lets TVOTR do what they do best and mix genres of music. "Love Dog" is a really cool rock song. It starts out with a faint piano and drums, and just keeps building, gets louder and is met at the bridge by a crescendo of sounds that all come together perfectly. It closes as quietly as it starts, and everything in between is sublime. "Lover's Day" is a neat little song to close out the album. It's kind of poppy, but in a TVOTR type of way. "Dear Science" is a perfect album from start to finish. If someone were to ask me where to start with TVOTR, this would be the album I'd give them first.
They followed "Dear Science" up with the very underrated and under appreciated "Nine Types of Light" in 2011. It's hard to follow up a great album, but I feel like TVOTR did just that with "Nine Types of Light". This album is a bit more radio friendly and poppy, but TVOTR makes it work to their advantage. My gateway to this record was them releasing the song "Will Do" a couple of months prior to the release of the album. "Will Do" is a great radio rock song and the music video is really cool and trippy. Check it out if you haven't seen it. There are some other really great songs on this album. "Second Song" is a really cool blues/rock song that opens this album. "Keep Your Heart" is a sad song, and Malone's singing and lyrics make it even sadder. "Killer Crane" is a really unique slow song with some cool use of different instruments. "New Cannonball Blues" is Malone doing his best Howlin Wolf impression. This song is awesome. It's like Zeppelin, but Malone sings it as if he's channeling Howlin Wolf. "Caffeinated Consciousness" closes out the album and it's the best three chord rock song I've ever heard. Malone's guitar and Tunde's singing are so good on this song. This was the last album that featured original bassist Gerard Smith, who died of lung cancer nine days after the record was released. The song "Killer Crane" is almost a hymn for him, with the video being mostly still shots of the band, with the majority of them featuring Smith. "Nine Types of Light" was also released as a movie. It's more music videos for each song than a movie, but it moves like a movie. I highly recommend listening to the record and then watch the movie. This was a really good idea by TVOTR and it totally works with their persona.
Last year, they released "Seeds". They took time off due to the death of Smith, and "Seeds" was the result of their off time. This is a really good record and it kind of gave TVOTR the little bit of fame they have always deserved. Songs like "Careful You", "Test Pilot" and "Loved Stained" are all slow burners with very cool and innovative music accompaniment. "Careful You" has one of the coolest guitar effects I've ever heard. Other tracks like "Winter", "Lazzeray" and "Happy Idiot" are straight up rock and roll songs with TVOTR's distinct sound. My favorite song on the album, "Seeds", is love song esque, with great lyrics and simple yet sophisticated instrumentation. "Seeds" seems cathartic for the band and it's a fitting tribute to Smith.
As I said earlier, I know that TVOTR is still semi new, but they belong in this conversation for all of these and many more reasons. They will continue to keep making cool, interesting new music and I'm very excited for what their future holds.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He wants to know what American music makes you rock. Come write for SeedSing, then follow Ty on twitter @tykulik.