TV on the Radio

Over the Weekend (Aug. 31 Edition)

News, new music, and new videos to help you start the week…

When the Eagles of Death Metal first debuted in 2004 with Peace, Love, Death Metal, it would have been hard to believe that the side project of Josh Homme fronted by Jesse “The Devil” Hughes would still be around over a decade later.  But sure enough, the guys are set to return this fall with the cleverly-named Zipper Down, and last week they released a video for the track “Complexity”.  It is the perfect match of ultra-serious post-punk black-and-white aesthetics and ultra-goofy scuzz rock.

The craziest news of the weekend was an Instagram post that showed a member of the Wu-Tang Clan in the studio with a legendary film composer, as GZA shared a picture of him working with Vangelis.  This unique collaboration is sure to produce some memorable results.

Television audiences will get the chance to see another exceptional team-up in a couple of weeks, as Run the Jewels is scheduled to perform with TV on the Radio on Stephen Colbert’s version of the Late Show on September 16.

There are hundreds of other sites that you could visit to get a rundown of what happened at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, including Kanye’s acceptance of the “Video Vanguard” award, but we would like to share with you a bit of news about Mr. West that probably was not discussed at the VMA’s.  Kanye is set to do a special show at the Hollywood Bowl to perform his album 808s & Heartbreak in full, marking the first time that he would produce a live show from the unique record infamous for its heavy use of autotune.

Lou Barlow has been an integral part of several significant groups that helped shape the alternative music for decades now (Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Folk Implosion), so it is always worth checking out whatever it is that he records.  NPR has the stream for his newest solo albumBrace the Wave, available for streaming this week in advance of its September 4th release.

Finally, have some fun with this short video of Damon Albarn performing the song “Mr Tembo” in front of its namesake, an adorable baby elephant.  Contrary to the reports of the Stereogum reporter, it seems rather obvious that Mr Tembo appreciates the performance.

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Over the Weekend (Aug. 10 Edition)

New music, news, and other fun useless stuff as you recover from an unexpected night out…

Last week we linked to an interview with guitarist Spiral Stairs as he revealed his favorite Pavement songs, and this week we can share the thoughts of another member of the band.  Stephen Malkmus talked to Newsweek about several of the songs that appear on the rarities compilation The Secret History, Vol. 1, providing background on their creation to the best of his ability.

90’s-influenced noise-rockers Deaf Wish shared the video for their single “On”, capturing the strange ending to what was apparently a bizarre television show.

Earl Sweatshirt also released a video this week, sharing a gloomy animated vision for “Off Top” from his stellar recent release, I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside.

Alternative Nation has footage and background from an early Alice in Chains show, recorded in December of 1989 in Pullman, Washington.  The show takes place months before the release of their debut album Facelift, so it provides an interesting record of the group moments before they hit it big.

Hutch Harris contributes a great review to The Talkhouse, a site where albums are discussed and reviewed by other artists, providing a critical and loving assessment of the newest solo album from guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes.

And finally, it was announced that singer Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio has joined with vocalist Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas, Peeping Tom, Mr. Bungle, etc.) and rapper Doseone for a project called The Nevermen.  Consequence of Sound has the details, including a SoundCloud link to the lead single “Tough Towns”.  After that, be sure to check out an edition of Kids Interview Bands that TV on the Radio recently shared, where the band finally answers exactly what kind of cookie can be found in Cookie Mountain.

Catching Up On The Week (July 24 Edition)

Some #longreads for helping you pass the time while you luxuriate in humanity’s greatest sin, Central Air

It’s the dog days of summer, and so it’s probably about time we share some of the pieces we’ve bookmarked over the past few months but neglected to pass on to you.  One such example is this account from Vulture detailing Bob Dylan’s first Letterman appearance, and the unique group of musicians he enlisted for support.

Deadspin has another great piece that would have been better if we shared it at a more appropriate time: a look at the history behind Alice Cooper’s classic anthem “School’s Out”.

It is usually a blast to read the interactions between artists of different generations as they discuss their appreciation for the work of each other.  This interview with Frank Black/Black Francis of the Pixies and Tunde Adebimpe in Time Out is one such example.

We were fortunate to finally catch one of our favorite bands live a few months ago, and it turns out it was worth it to take on the additional expenses to do so, since The Replacements have seemingly broken up once again.  The Guardian has a profile of the band that ran shortly before a couple of the band’s final shows in London.

Project Pabst 2015 Day 1 Recap

Last year’s Project Pabst was an unqualified success, so it made sense for the organizers to make the festival an annual event instead of a one-off celebration.  Even though it could be argued that this year’s lineup was a step below last year’s edition, Project Pabst offered easily the best selection from a burgeoning Portland festival scene.  And so once again, Rust Is Just Right made the trek up north to enjoy a weekend’s worth of music in a gravel pit.

Into the clown's mouth...

Into the clown’s mouth…

As great as many of the performances were throughout the weekend, the defining characteristic of Project Pabst was how goddamn hot the entire event was.  I feel ashamed to be complaining about the heat since I spent my childhood playing pickup basketball during the unbearable Louisiana summer months, but living in Oregon has unfortunately made me soft.  Temperatures hit triple digits on the first day, and the primary concern was locating shade wherever it was available, with making sure the sunscreen was still effective a close second.  Actually, the heat was not the problem–it was the sun beating down mercilessly upon all of our heads that contributed to the crowd’s relative misery more than anything.  This was in stark contrast to last year’s edition, which took place at the end of September, and it seems as if the organizers made no effort to alter the accommodations to prepare for the drastic change in weather.

Against Me! declares that "Gender Is Over"

Against Me! declares that “Gender Is Over”

The first set that we caught came from punk rockers Against Me! who delivered a fiery set that was better than their early-afternoon slot would indicate.  Variety is not Against Me!’s strong suit, and as a result their music tends to run a bit on the formulaic side especially when you focus on the drums and bass parts.  However, the band’s energy easily won me over, which is more than I could say for the heat-stricken crowd–I was surprised to see the relatively listless reaction to the band’s breakthrough hit “Thrash Unreal”.

Why have one drummer when you can have two?

Why have one drummer when you can have two?

Thee Oh Sees kept the punk spirit rolling with their set, delivering their garage-rock at a breakneck speed and with an extra helping of pure cacophony.  The band would have won a trophy for “Most Treble” if any such award was given, which is somewhat ironic considering the number of intriguing bass lines that were sprinkled throughout their set.  For the most part, the group rarely exploited the fact that they had two drummers, choosing to have the two play duplicate parts instead of contrasting or complementary parts.  Their set quickly began to wear thin, with each short burst of fury practically indistinguishable from each other; a full hour was too much, a fact that the band acknowledged when they expressed surprise that they still had twenty-five minutes left in their set.   At this point, Thee Oh Sees became the soundtrack to a food break, where I opted once again for the mediocre Muffaletta sandwich.

TV on the Radio attempt to beat the heat

TV on the Radio attempt to beat the heat

TV on the Radio put on one of the best shows of last year, so they were one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing the most this weekend.  Like many of the other acts, however, they were not prepared for the relentless heat, as seen by the fact that most of the band was dressed entirely in black.  The band performed with the same intensity and passion as they did last winter, though on occasion the sound mix was not as up to the quality of that previous show; this was most obvious during “Could You”, when the song was dangerously close to falling apart for most of its running time.  The thrilling finale of “Staring at the Sun” served as a microcosm of the set, as initial enthusiasm soon fizzled and the crowd began anticipating a move to the second stage.   The set did nothing to diminish TVOTR in my eyes, but due to the conditions outside of their control it is unlikely they earned many new fans with this performance.

Run the Jewels owned the weekend.

Run the Jewels owned the weekend.

The unquestioned highlight of the whole weekend for me was the chance to finally see Run the Jewels live.  Killer Mike and El-P totally lived up to expectations, as they proved to be one of the most dynamic acts touring today.  In contrast with a lot of hip-hop sets, the duo was able to keep spirits high as they seemingly fed off each other’s energy, with Trackstar the DJ doing a fantastic job manning the 1 and 2.  The crowd ate it all up, with a majority ready to throw up the fist-and-gun hand gestures at a moment’s notice.  Two audience members who had a blast during the set were Del the Funky Homosapien and A-Plus, a fact that I realized when I saw them perform later that night.

Blondie bringing out the big guns...a keytar

Blondie bringing out the big guns…a keytar

Blondie was the headlining nostalgia act this year, taking over the spot held previously by Tears for Fears.  I was surprised at the lack of buzz that greeted these legends, especially in comparison to last year’s feverish anticipation for Tears for Fears, but it is not as if I was compensating for the lack of enthusiasm myself.  It was a strange and ragged set that managed to not only to display the variety of hits the band has had over the years but to include a random cover of “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” (mirroring last year’s TFF set).  Of all things, I felt that a random keytar solo during “Call Me” was the best summary of the performance.

This would have been a nice finale to the evening...

This would have been a nice finale to the evening…

Saturday night was all set to have a thrilling conclusion with Ghostface Killah joining up with BADBADNOTGOOD to perform from their collaboration Sour Soul, except for the fact that Ghostface never showed up.  Stuff like this happens, but the way that the organizers of the show handled the situation was inexcusable.  There may not have been a hotter spot in Portland than the Crystal Ballroom that night, and the fact that the crowd was left in the dark for an hour before BADBADNOTGOOD had to reveal the bad news themselves was inexcusable; at least give the audience a chance to decide to bail or not, and inform them why they are suffering in the heat for so long.  BADBADNOTGOOD tried to make amends and delivered a technically-proficient and spirited jazz-fusion set, but it was impossible to overcome the letdown that the news of Ghostface’s absence had caused.

Random Notes

Number of free water refills: 4

Number of beards longer than mine: 3, including Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio

Number of comments on my shirt (Neutral Milk Hotel Gramophone/Aeroplane): 0

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2014

Today is April 15, and while the rest of the nation celebrates Tax Day, we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund/gives them an added checklist when they head out to their local record stores this weekend for Record Store Day.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.  Also, we have reviews for all of these albums, so for those of you seeking a more detailed analysis all you need to do is click the appropriate tag above.

10. Alvvays – Alvvays; Aphex Twin – Syro; Nothing – Guilty of Everything; Real Estate – Atlas (8 plays)

Alvvays and Nothing edge themselves onto the list with fantastic debut albums, the former being a sublime beach-pop record and the latter finding an intriguing mix between shoegaze and metal.  Real Estate’s latest would make a great companion album to the Alvvays record on any future trip to the coast, with the band further refining their laid-back, easy-going vibe with some of their most tightly-constructed songs of their career, like “Talking Backwards” and “Crimes”.  The only reason why Aphex Twin’s fantastic comeback effort is so low on the list is that we in general do not spend much time listening to electronica; otherwise, it would have ended up much higher on our list.

9. Beck – Morning Phase; Ought – More Than Any Other Day; Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal; Solids – Blame Confusion (9 plays)

We never grew to love Sunbathing Animal in the same way that we did Light Up Gold, so its inclusion on the list is mainly due to our insistence on trying to gain a greater appreciation through repeated listens; that said, it did have its moments, like “Dear Ramona” and “Instant Disassembly”, that we would love to hear the next time they roll through the Northwest.  Ought’s debut album is the perfect example of why we delay the publication of our list, since their fascinating debut did not come onto our radar until after we saw it on another year-end list, and it soon became one of our favorites with its intriguing take on garage rock and post-punk.  We jumped in early on the Solids bandwagon, and were pleased to see that the duo’s fuzz-rock had some staying power over the course of the year.  And we hope that Beck is as proud of his showing on our list as he is of the Grammy that he got for his gorgeous new album.

8. The Antlers – Familiars; Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else; Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE (10 plays)

Cymbals Eat Guitars surprised a lot of people with the leap forward that they took on LOSE, an ambitious, anthemic guitar rock masterpiece.  Cloud Nothings somehow came back with an even rawer record than Attack on Memory, and in the process became more of a cohesive group, with the furious drumming being a noteworthy highlight.  As for The Antlers, this is becoming old hat for them, because they once again delivered an incredible record, this time meditating on reconciling the internal struggle, dressed up in hauntingly gorgeous hooks.

7. Fucked Up – Glass Boys; Sharon Van Etten – Are We There? (11 plays)

We may have been in the minority with our disappointment in David Comes to Life, but Fucked Up more than made up for it with the punchy Glass Boys.  As for Sharon Van Etten, she continues to find the perfect balance between the pain and sadness of her lyrics and the beauty of her music.

6. The Black Keys – Turn Blue (13 plays)

Though there is probably a sizable contingent of people who are tired of The Black Keys at this point, we are not in that subset.  Turn Blue was the right step after the arena-rock of El Camino, and we love it when they collaborate with Danger Mouse.  Also, the guitar solos in “The Weight of Love” were probably the year’s best.

5. Interpol – El Pintor; Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2 (14 plays)

After their disappointing self-titled album and the polarizing Our Love to Admire, Interpol gave itself a needed shot in the arm with El Pintor.  Though on paper it seems that dropping the band’s “secret weapon” Carlos D. was a bad idea, Paul Banks comfortably assumed those duties and seemed to reinvigorate the rest of the band with their strongest effort since Antics.  Run The Jewels proved that sequels can improve upon the originals, with Killer Mike throwing down some of the best verses of his career.


4. TV on the Radio – Seeds; The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream (15 plays)

A lot of critics seemed to have slept on Seeds, but any visit to see TV on the Radio on their latest tour should quiet any doubts that people had about the band.  It is an album about finding strength through loss, and the band crafted some of its best songs in the wake of the loss of bass player Gerard Smith.  The War on Drugs improved upon their initial breakthrough Slave Ambient by shaping their soundscapes into more cohesive “songs”, but the album is still a delight to listen to with the headphones cranked up to listen to all the different sonic details.


3. Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours; Peter Matthew Bauer – Liberation!; Spoon – They Want My Soul (17 plays)

It is fitting that two of the solo albums from one of our favorite bands would end up in a tie; though we mourn the apparent loss of The Walkmen, we should rejoice that we have been blessed with multiple excellent albums already.  Each captured distinct parts of their previous band’s sound–Hamilton’s penchant for vintage sounds, Peter with the charming raggedness of their music.  Spoon once again proved that they are the most consistently brilliant band in indie rock for the past 15 years, as They Want My Soul effectively captures the band’s past sound as well as finds new ways to innovate, with songs like “New York Kiss” and “Outlier”.


2. The Men – Tomorrow’s Hits (19 plays)

This is perhaps the best example of the peculiarities of The Process, as the placement of Tomorrow’s Hits was partially inflated by just how much fun it is to drive around playing this record.  The band looked backwards for inspiration, re-configuring the sound of a bar band from the 70’s to create one of the most entertaining records of the year.  The Men have been busy throughout their career, releasing five records and five years, so we should probably be expecting a sixth record soon.


1. Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World (23 plays)

We have been in love with this album since the second we heard the opening notes of “Trainwreck 1979”.  Death From Above 1979 made the most of the ten years off since their debut, finding the perfect balance between recreating the magic of their early work while moving ahead into new and exciting directions.  You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine still holds up hundreds of years later, and The Physical World looks like it will repeat the same feat.  The band still has the same ferocious energy as when they first burst on the scene, but it is clear that both Sebastien and Jesse have improved as musicians, finding new ways to create original music through the simple tools of bass and drums (with the occasional synth).  Hopefully we do not have to wait another ten years for the next step.

Over the Weekend (Apr. 13 Edition)

New videos, new music, and news to help tide you over as you wait for the NBA playoffs to begin…

For weeks, TV on the Radio has been teasing the release of their latest single off their brilliant album Seeds by posting photos with the hashtag “#herecomestrouble”, and last week finally shared the video for “Trouble”.  Much like the song, it has a somber tone, but there is a redemptive undercurrent that ultimately makes it uplifting.

Janelle Monáe surprised her fans this morning by releasing a new song and accompanying video, a fun romp entitled “Yoga” off an upcoming compilation EP called Wonderland Presents THE EEPHUS.  The video does indeed feature some “yoga”, though the focus is not necessarily on fitness or inner peace, but as a precursor to a wild party.

The biggest shock of the weekend was the announcement that Frank Ocean will soon be releasing the follow-up to his breakthrough album channel ORANGE in July.  His fellow compatriot in the Odd Future collective, Tyler, the Creator, also surprised fans with the sudden release of his new album Cherry Bomb, which is now available for streaming and will have a physical release with five different album covers on April 28th.

Another highly-anticipated release that is now available for streaming is the newest effort from Speedy Ortiz, with Foil Deer up on the NPR website.  We loved their debut album, Major Arcana, and had a lot of fun when they performed at Project Pabst, so we cannot wait to get our hands on the record when it is released next week.

We are also glad to hear that Local H is close to releasing another record, and the AV Club has an exclusive track from the upcoming Hey, Killer.  The band (with a slight lineup change) will soon be hitting the road, and we highly recommend you go see them play.

And finally, we have a couple of fun, useless lists to help you pass the time.  OC Weekly has a list of the 10 Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock, and we have to say that we agree with several of their selections; there clearly was some thought involved, and the intent was not to troll readers.  And AV Club followed up their A-Z list of Animated Series with a rundown of the Best Rock Bands of the 00’s for each letter of the alphabet, and while not a bad list per se, it definitely fulfills the qualification of being “useless.”

Catching Up On The Week (Mar. 13 Edition)

Some #longreads as you make plans for Friday the 13th, “Pi Day”, and the Ides of March…

Multiple sites are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of Radiohead’s classic album The Bends, ranging from Consequence of Sound’s track-by-track remembrance to Stereogum’s full-fledged “Radiohead Week”.  In addition to their usual anniversary post, Stereogum also has a great interview with Radiohead drummer Philip Selway in which he provides insight into the recording of The Bends.  The best feature though may be their discussion with a wide range of musicians about their all-time favorite Radiohead song.  A lot of the choices and explanations are illuminating, but I have to say that I was a little disappointed that my personal favorite was not selected.

“Street Spirit (fade out)” is a hauntingly beautiful song, and in my mind is the best song in Radiohead’s extensive catalog–after that, it’s about a thirty-way tie for second place.  If you break it down to its basic musical components, it has a fairly uncomplicated structure: it’s just a gorgeous descending guitar melody built atop a simple three chord progression, with Thom Yorke’s voice wrapping itself around the music in a way that is alternately sad and hopeful.  This is pure speculation on my part, but I believe that a key factor that contributed to its melancholic quality is the fact that the guitars were tuned about 15 cents flat, which gave a slightly unsettling feel to the arpeggiated riff and helped open up the tone of the guitar.  And “Street Spirit” had a fantastic Jonathan Glazer-directed video to boot.

The other big news this week was a jury reaching a verdict in the “Blurred Lines” copyright trial, with the jury finding in favor of the Gaye estate that there was infringement.  We may discuss the potential ramifications of the decision in detail at a later date, but in the meantime you can read about the possible unintended consequences of the decision from Deadspin and SPIN.  Simply put, the fact that most people in the media has turned on Robin Thicke does not mean that infringement occurred, and it could have a potential chilling effect on future music.

Finally, for some lighter fare, you have a couple of options.  Earlier this week we had a piece on Viet Cong, and now you might want to read an interview the band conducted with SPIN, even if it doesn’t touch on the name issue.  And you can top it off with the AV Club explaining why you should listen to the gorgeous a capella TV on the Radio song “Ambulance”, followed by actually listening to the song.

Over the Weekend (Dec. 29 Edition)

News, videos, and other end-of-the-year paraphernalia as you transition from one holiday weekend to another…

We gave the Rust Is Just Right staff an extra day off last week, so we’re going to combine our linkdump days this week and get to a couple of stories we neglected to share; we hope you didn’t miss us too much, and hopefully this makes up for our absence.

We’ll kick things off with a music video, as TV on the Radio just released one for the upbeat and frenetic “Lazerray” from their album Seeds, and footage of skateboard tricks somehow seems to be an appropriate take on the song.

For those in the mood for more music videos, NME provides a slideshow of the best music videos of the decade so far, and I’d have to say I agree with the number one and number three selections in particular.  In other “lists” news, Pitchfork now has their Readers Poll results up (which differs only slightly from the staff selections, for the most part), and Under the Radar has their Top 140 albums.  A more interesting feature offered by the latter is their annual Artist Survey; we enjoyed the one from Max Bloom of Yuck in particular.

Everybody heard about PAPER magazine’s “Break the Internet” issue for other reasons, but hidden within its pages was a fascinatingly hilarious interview with Snoop Dogg, discussing mainly his newfound passion for painting.

Stereogum has the video for a compilation that asked artists over the years a simple question: “Lennon or McCartney?”  I believe that the choice of one over the other says a lot about the person, but I shouldn’t have to tip my hand one way or the other.  I will say that Bo Diddley offers the best answer of all, however.

Elsewhere on the Stereogum site, they have a list of the 101 Most Anticipated Albums of 2015, and you’re correct we’re using it as a cheat sheet to remind us what’s coming out next year.

And finally, we recommend that you read this remembrance of Joe Cocker from Jason Heller of the AV Club, which does an excellent job of explaining the power of his voice and his unexpected influence on younger generations.

The Best Concerts of 2014

We do things a little differently around here when it comes to the traditional lists like “Best Albums of the Year”, since we like to take the extra time to see if we may have missed anything.  But we admit we can’t resist the opportunity to look back on other highlights of the year, so it’s the perfect time to create an arbitrary ranking of the best concerts we saw this year. 

Over the course of 2014 we saw a grand total of 32 different concerts (including two separate festivals), giving us close to an average of three different shows a month to see national touring acts.  Considering that we had to travel at least an hour to and from all but one of these shows, allow us to shed our modesty for a second and say that this was quite the accomplishment.  Luckily, not a single concert could be even remotely considered a dud, so it makes narrowing down the list to just ten shows that much harder.  That said, we think that these shows are worthy of special recognition, and we invite you to use the tags to read up on our reviews for each performance.

Cloud Nothings put on a great show, but will have to settle for just outside the top ten.

Cloud Nothings put on a great show, but will have to settle for a spot just outside the top ten.

Honorable Mention for The Thermals playing a show in Salem and making the town seem like a real cool place for once.

10. The Men, live at Dante’s

9. Hamilton Leithauser, live at the Doug Fir

8. The National, live at the Les Schwab Amphitheater

7. Modest Mouse, headlining Project Pabst

6. TV on the Radio, live at the Crystal Ballroom

5. Queens of the Stone Age, live at the Keller Auditorium

4. Beck, live at Edgefield

3. Neutral Milk Hotel, live at the Crystal Ballroom

2. Death From Above 1979, live at the Crystal Ballroom

1. Slowdive, live at the Crystal Ballroom.

It’s no surprise that the top of the list is loaded with reunions, though the exact order goes against what probably would have been predicted at the beginning of the year; the biggest shock remains that shows at the Crystal Ballroom ended up being the venue to house the best shows, though that speaks to the ability of each of those groups to overcome any obstacles that tricky room could toss their way.

Let’s hope that any shows we see in the next year live up to the unbelievable standard that this past year has set!

TV on the Radio, Live at the Crystal Ballroom

Over the course of more than a decade and five albums into their career, there is still no band like TV on the Radio.  They are sui generis, a singular entity that defies easy characterization but continually produces gorgeous and engaging music. As great as their studio output is, it gives but a glimpse of the true power of the band, and that’s its live show.  Last Thursday’s show at the Crystal Ballroom was a thrilling experience that capped off not only a wonderful year of concerts, but proves that more than ever we need to be thankful for the band’s existence.

Inside, they don't take as much care in lining up the names for the concert calendar

Inside, they don’t take as much care in lining up the names for the concert calendar

On record, TV on the Radio exerts an air of precision and carefulness; even when the songs are filled with hisses and layers of ambient haze, there is still the notion that this “noise” is meticulously constructed, with the particular vocal styles of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone also contributing to this perception.  However, their live show moves away from their more artfully produced side and instead brings out their dormant punk rock tendencies.  This was established in a dramatic fashion at the very beginning of the show, as waves of haze and noise filled the air like an aural fog machine before Tunde ripped through and delivered a thrilling rendition of one of their earliest songs, “Young Liars”.  Though I have my doubts that most of the audience had an previous familiarity with the song, by the end of the first chorus it didn’t matter, and they provided an enthusiastic response.

Tunde was moving around the stage and wringing the emotion out of every note, often with the aid of his unique physical mannerisms that in the hands of a less capable performer would look ridiculous but were clearly genuine expressions on his part.  Dave Sitek spent most of the set furiously strumming his guitar, and though it was nearly impossible to pick out his singular contributions it was clear that he was making an important contribution to the general atmosphere of each song; he stood in direct contrast to Kyp Malone on the other side of the stage, whose stillness amid the chaos portrayed an almost zen-like quality to his guitar-playing and vocal parts.  In their live performance, the brilliance of the composition of the bass and drum parts become much more apparent, and Jaleel Bunton and Japhet Landis helped not only to keep everything grounded but offered thrilling personal touches of their own.  While Landis seemed to struggle slightly with a couple of the turnarounds in “Lazerray”, he more than made up for it with his handling of the tricky rhythms of “Province”.

TV on the Radio performing "Golden Age"

TV on the Radio performing “Golden Age”

The set focused mainly on the new album Seeds, with the band performing most of the album, including a stretch of four songs in a row that indicate the band’s confidence in the material.  Considering we here at RIJR think it’s one of the top albums of the year, we were fine with this decision.  The band sprinkled only a little bit from the rest of their catalog throughout, with Dear Science and Return to Cookie Mountain getting a handful of songs each.  For the most part, the intention was to keep the energy up, and so fast-paced rockers like “Dancing Choose” and “Golden Age” dominated the setlist in favor of the band’s slower songs (though a re-working of “Blues From Down Here” showed the versatility of their more balladesque material).  As expected, “Wolf Like Me” was a thrilling highlight, with the crowd absolutely losing its mind during the band’s ferocious performance.

The band seemed to genuinely enjoy their visit to Portland, and the crowd was glad to benefit from the extra shot of energy that comes with the final stop at the end of a tour.  But there were other things that were understandably on the band’s mind, as Kyp and Tunde both took time between songs to express frustration with the recent current events and promote positive social awareness in the audience.  This included a memorable segment that involved crowd participation about “light” and “dark” and Tunde running through and high-fiving the audience.  All of this led up to the final song, the moment that I had been hoping all night to hear once again, and that was their electric performance of their early hit “Staring at the Sun”.  It is one of the highlights of desperate youth, blood thirsty babes, but it takes on a whole new dimension when performed live that few bands in history can match.  It was a sensational conclusion to not only a brilliant show, but to the year in general.  Thanks to that performance, I’m going to have to reshuffle my list of top concerts of the year, but that’s a great problem to have.