Sunday, February 08, 2009

Top 20 Of 2008: #6

6. TV on the Radio - Dear Science

This album has been on the top of a lot of year-end lists, and for good reason; it's a towering achievement. It's political, passionate, optimistic and inventive. All the things that TV on the Radio are. And I guess that's why it's only at #6 on my list. As good as it is, it's not a surprise from these guys.

More than any other album this year, Dear Science captured a political mood. The past eight years have given rise to some great music that came out of anger at the Bush administration, but this year seemed to be a pause, a moment of anticipation rather than activity. TV on the Radio didn't go that route. They created an album that is angry and hopeful at the same time, a call to arms for people that have felt left out for a long time.

The album is self-consciously arty, almost like they're making a statement that they are now the norm, they are the ones who will lead the way in the new era that is about to begin. They are staking a claim to thought leadership coming out of a time when thought was not something that was valued. They rail against the media a lot on this album, from pundits to newspapers, but it never devolves into a screed against all things mass. They create vivid portraits of individuals affected in various ways by the state of things and the coming change. It's more like a book of short stories than a book of essays.

There's not a lot of change here from a musical point of view. Their music still has that sort of metallic sheen that it has always had. In fact, musically, this may be their weakest; three albums in it just doesn't seem as fresh. So from that point of view, listen to the first two records if you want to be blown away all over again. But if you're looking for a rallying cry for the new era, this is a damn good record. Fuck This is music for the new revolution.


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