"TV on the Radio gave some serious reinvention to indie rock, with their debut "Desperate Youth Blood Thirsty Babes." Then they sort of dropped off for awhile, apparently to tinker with their future sound.
Well, "Return to Cookie Mountain" is an evolution of what they've done before -- the art-rock sound, the grimy electro, and the rough edges that don't need polishing.This isn't quite "there" enough to be their masterpiece, but TV on the Radio is definitely sounding wonderfully mature.
It starts off with the year's best intro -- drum beats, clashes, and an offbeat horn symphony that cuts itself off, before repeating again. As the jagged electronic beats come on, Tunde Adepimbe begins to croon, "I was a lover/before this war... I'm locked in my bedroom/so send back the clowns..." It's a bittersweet song with a warm, rich feeling.
The closest thing they have to typical rock is the heart-pounding "Wolf Like Me," with its howled bridges and eerie feeling, and the expansive, tinkling, explosive "Playhouses." There's also the rustling, stomping art-rock of "Let the Devil In," the swirling electro-rock, the soul-rock, and the epic bass-rock of the finale "Wash the Day Away."
Don't expect TV on the Radio to really rock out in "Return to Cookie Mountain," since they got recognition for their equally dense debut. The songs that follow are too grandiose, too looped, and too dense to be toe-tappers. The only real flaw is their tendency to sometimes neglect music in place of atmosphere -- although even their failures are fascinating.
And that atmosphere is of a dangerous, beautiful place -- campfires, tribal dances, wild animals and flying over mountains. The repetitive drums, bass and more typical instruments are loaded down with flutes, samples, electronic beats, mellotron, cymbals. It's all tangled into a series of loosely-strung, hypnotic melodies that seem to swirl around on themselves.
But the most hypnotic instrument is the vocals. Adepimbe can be deep and soulful, desperate howls, or higher and soaring; either way, he hasn't got the typical disinterested rock voice. And the jumbled, colourful lyrics are hard to make out at times, and eventually they simple become another repetitive pattern in the music.
TV on the Radio have one-upped themselves with "Return to Cookie Mountain," and yet there's a feeling of unfulfilled promise, hinting that they'll get even better as time goes on."
Climb this "Mountain"
Alfonso Mangione | Chicago, IL United States | 09/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You won't hear "TV on the Radio" on the radio. You probably won't see them on TV, for that matter.
This is one of those albums too great to be ignored, but too quirky and demanding to get the attention of the mass public.
"Cookie Mountain" features swirling falsettos and a funky vibe reminiscent of D'Angelo's "Voodoo" or Prince's "Sign O' The Times." Times are bleaker now, and this is a darker, denser album than either of those masterpieces. It demands your attention but rewards it, too, with swirling soundscapes that you have to travel over several times to truly appreciate. Songs that sound strange on first listen become interesting by the second and downright catchy by the third or fourth.
Main vocalist Kyp Malone uses his voice more for musical instrumentation than for clear lyrical delivery; it's a good thing, because it's a wonderful instrument, but it's also a little sad, because the lyrics are great, too, and you don't always hear them. "I once joined a priest class, plastic, inert. In a slow dance with commerce like a lens up a skirt. And we liked to party. And we kept it live. And we had a three-volume tome of contemporary slang to keep a handle on all this jive," he sings on the brilliant opener, but on other excellent tracks like "Wolf Like Me," you won't necessarily know what he's singing unless you stopped to browse through the lyric book. Songs of contmporary urban angst, political frustration, addiction-haunted love, and divine inquiry float, ethereal, from his mouth into a hazy, churning kaleidoscope of gospel, guitar and synthesizer, with the occasional horn arrangement or driving drum track to keep things grounded.
There are no low points per se in this soundscape, only ridges between the peaks. Most of the peaks are closer to the front; "I Was A Lover", "Hours" and "I Was a Wolf" are perhaps the best tracks on the album. Still, you'll have a great time climbing this mountain."
J. Cacciola | USA | 09/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Oh, how I was wrong about this band. Well, that's what two years will do for you.
Brooklyn's T.V. on the Radio have received consistent praise from various magazines and online publications over the past couple of years for their definitive blend of electronica, soul, jazz, a cappella, and indie pop. Their major label debut on Interscope Records, "Return to Cookie Mountain," expands their sprawling sound even further to yield one of the best albums of the year.
The name 'Cookie Mountain' sounds like something from a Mario game. In fact, it is the name of a level in the Super Nintendo title, Super Mario World. The record isn't an exercise in video game knowledge or something that would immediately remind you of a 16-bit musical score, but there are hints of beeps, blips, and scratches from sampling embedded in their music. Overdubs and constant instrumentation prevail; a constant motion, an urgency, much like a video game. Perhaps that is a interpretation of "Return to Cookie Mountain"; a return to their true, cultivated sound once promised on their debut EP, "Young Liars."
What really makes "Cookie Mountain" such a brilliant record is its ability to indulge. However, T.V. on the Radio aren't over-indulgent; their response to their audience is one of patience with long, developed songs. Perhaps I was too quick to dismiss their first full-length album, "Desperate Youth Blood Thirsty Babes" when I purchased it in late 2004. It didn't initially hold my interest, because of other musical pursuits, but it showed a glimpse of what is captured here. Their live act has expanded considerably since then, aiding their evolving sound.
The first track, "I was a Lover" features a looping sample of a trumpet with the shoegaze-like distortion of guitar and synthesized drum beat from instrumentalist and producer, David Sitek. Guitarist and vocalist Kyp Malone jumps in and croons, "I was a lover before this war" pushing the album into familiar yet intriguing territory.
"Province" slowly eases into a beautiful, sweeping piano melody amidst Interpol-like guitar structured verse and chorus. Long time fan of the band, David Bowie, makes an appearance on this track, singing alongside lead vocalist, Tunde Adebimpe.
Jaleel Bunton's percussion initiates "Wolf like Me", the first single, a quick, wild, and expansive song while being still being very contained and poppy.
"A Method" incorporates some of the a cappella elements (amongst whistling and clapping) experimented with on "Ambulance" and their cover of The Pixies' "Mr. Grieves." The song truly shines as an instantly catchy gem, worthy of airplay like the prior track, "Wolf like Me."
"Dirtywhirl" is another standout, beginning softly and then exploding into a soulful vocally driven masterpiece.
Each song distinguishes itself from one another, unfurling without losing the sort of cohesion needed for continuous play.
To compensate for the delayed U.S. release, Interscope has provided three bonus songs, the quirky "Snakes and Martyrs," a slower, more electronic version of "Hours" (El-P Remix), and the low-key groovy "Things You Can Do."
Nearly every print publication has raved about the album: Rolling Stone, Spin, Filter, Paste, and Q. In addition, Pitchfork Media, Stylus Magazine, and Tiny Mix Tapes have given the album some of their highest marks.
The only flaw with the main album is that it may be considered too expansive at 56 minutes. Many of the songs are lengthy and require a dedicated ear. There will be comparisons to Radiohead, but T.V. on the Radio manage to create an entirely original sound. "Return to Cookie Mountain" is dense but a highly fulfilling listen. It may take several weeks for some of these songs to peak, but you will return to the mountain many times."
Just watch and listen
Eliza J. Gonzalez | 12/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"the name itself, tv on the radio, informs the listener on how to approach listening to this album...several people who I've shown TVOR to wanted instant gratification, the kind of indie music with hooks and dancey beats; the kind of sugar coated radio friendly indie pop/rock that has become mass produced as of late; TVOR seems to actually try to intentionally not make their music instantly accessible. You have to sort of watch the songs as they unfold themselves, and to be patient is well rewarded. Definitely one of the most inspired and artistic bands of late, TVOR is the real thing, not just a band that gets a deal because they sound like Modest Mouse or the Killers, in which record companies know they'll bank off of the "mall punk" type mentality that makes a commodity of music. The real reason why I'm writing this, because I never write reviews or try to push a point of view on someone elese, is because the amazon critic said that "Let the Devil In" and "Province" "kinda suck". Well, Mr/Ms critic, those two songs are two of my favorites that I listen to repeatedly off of an already mind blowing, incredible album. "Province" is uplifting, and explodes at the right moments while the lyrics are captivating (as are all of Adebimpe's poetic inflections). "Let the Devil In" is one of the more energetic and percussion heavy off the album. The beats are hypnotic and have a tribal, primitive angle that compliments the deep bass line that underlies the song; just try not to sing along with the "whoa whoa whoas" while driving in your car, or wherever you listen. Both songs, like every song, is incredible and a sight to behold. TVOR is art as much as it is music, escaping any genre typification or pretense. Just watch and listen, listen and watch. Also, their live show is absolutely amazing; the energy and passion that comes through is infectious. TVOR is really more of an experience than the type of bands that ride on pre-blazed trails and coattails could offer. I couldn't have asked for a better follow-up to Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes. I really want that Amazon critic to take back those comments on those songs. TVOR is just too incredible."
Innovative, Otherworldly . . .
Rich Latta | Albuquerque, NM - Land of Entitlement | 12/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first impression I ever had of TV on the Radio was that they had a really lame name - then I thought about it. It suggests seeing images broadcast directly into your mind or possibly controlled synesthasia. In a similar way, RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN rewards listeners who invest time and thought into the album.
The sound is often dense and hazy, as if coated with radiowave transmissions. By and large, the band does not rock out nearly as much as they are capable of on RTCM, focusing more on crafting their strangely evocative atmospheres. That's not to say that COOKIE MOUNTAIN doesn't rock - charging tracks like "Playhouses" and "Let the Devil In" sport firey drum workouts and intense, shoegaze-y guitars.
High-pitched wonders Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe are brilliant vocalists, but admittedly not for everyone, and a few of the songs ("A Method," "Dirtywhirl") are too "sing-songy" for my tastes. But amazing songs like the gorgeous, hopeful "Province" and the supremely poetic anti-addiction plea "Tonight" easily elevate my rating to five stars. People who only like the single "Wolf Like Me" (admittedly one of the best songs) should really give this album some more listens.
Addiction is clearly a major theme on RTCM, one we've heard time and time again, but rarely are the results this vivid, honest and darkly beautiful. The bonus tracks are practically as great as anything on the album. RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN is a strong contender for album of 2006."