Seeds is the follow-up to TV on the Radio’s 2011 Nine Types of Light, an album that was a bit underwhelming when held up against previous efforts like Return to Cookie Mountain and Dear Science. Upon the release of the new album’s first single “Happy Idiot,” my expectations for the new full length weren’t very high. The track felt generic and uninspired, although the video (see below), featuring Paul Reubens (Pee Week Herman) and Karen Gillan (Dr. Who, Guardians of the Galaxy) was entertaining and well-executed.
In the context of the rest of the album, “Happy Idiot” works much better, although it’s a weaker track among many standouts. And there are plenty of standouts on what has turned out to be a surprisingly daring and prodigious release. Frontman Tunde Adebimpe calls the record “without a doubt, the best thing we’ve ever done.” While it doesn’t reach the towering bar set by 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, Adebimpe isn’t that far off. Seeds is certainly one of the strongest albums in the band’s catalog. The album transitions from gloomy to hopeful and back again throughout its running time, an obvious side effect of a band still dealing with the death of their bassist Gerard Smith in 2011.
“Careful You,” the album’s second single is a better representation of the style and overall tone of these 12 tracks. Adebimpe opens the song in French and continues with an ambiguous yet engaging play between the lines “care for you” and “careful you.” Album opener “Quartz” is a welcomed return to the form. It’s a fearless and slow building album introduction in the vein of Dear Science (“Halfway Home”) and Return to Cookie Mountain (“I Was a Lover”). It’s also my favorite track on the LP. Musically, it’s one of the album’s more minimalist songs, but the juxtaposition of Adebimpe’s falsetto and Kip Malone’s baritone vocals, which substitutes as the song’s bass line in a sense, is stunning. Seeds serves as a welcomed entry in TV on the Radio’s discography and is one of our favorite albums of 2014.