TV on the Radio
Dear Science, (Interscope)
You could hear it coming. TV on the Radio has been hinting at this sort of breakout disc for some time now. Amidst the production tricks and star turn by David Bowie, a clarity and sense of purpose seemed to be emerging from the swirling, dense grooves of the band's previous effort, Return to Cookie Mountain. And when TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek produced Celebration's The Modern Tribe last year, that disc also felt more focused and direct. He also produced Scarlett Johansson's record, a very high-profile project, but the less said about that the better. So if you've been paying attention, Dear Science, (the comma is part of the title) shouldn't come as a complete surprise. Still, it's a notable leap forward for a band already known for its ambition and restless creativity. Sitek—the band's guitarist and principal producer and a Columbia native—strips away washes of gauzy effects in favor of a tighter, tauter sound that allows an inventive and resourceful rock band to emerge from the arty haze. "Halfway Home" opens with a Ramones-ish rush of adrenaline augmented by handclaps and soaring electric guitars, "Crying" weds falsetto vocals to a minimalist guitar line and brassy horn blasts, "Stork & Owl" builds on a stately rhythm, and "Golden Age" takes a renewed sense of optimism to the dance floor, with strings no less. Not since Talking Heads shed its art school pretensions to embrace polyrhythmic funk in the early-1980's has a band sounded so jazzed by its own potential.
Soul Progressin' (Hyena)
It is exciting that Gilchrist has reconvened his exceptional horn section (saxophonists John Dierker, Greg Thompkins, and Gabe Ware and trumpeters Mike Cerri and Freddy Dunn) for this session. Last year's Trio, featuring Gilchrist and his rhythm section, was a stripped down affair that showcased the Baltimore pianist's prodigious keyboard skills to full effect. An impressive record, it nevertheless lacked the brass-knuckled punch, enhanced melodicism, and textured nuance the horns provide. The new disc opens with the title track, a head-bobbing, propulsive tune that lets the horns stretch out beyond the groove. It's a statement of purpose, one that immediately establishes an adventurous, rambunctious vibe that runs through the remaining six songs. When Gilchrist's agile, foreboding explorations give way to the horns' dazzling exuberance, the effect is nothing short of transcendent
Fools & Horses
I Am the Ghost (self-released)
Local "modern rock" favorites, this quartet plays towering, tuneful rock that, for better or worse, brings to mind Chris Cornell, Coldplay, and Bon Jovi. In fact, they opened for Bon Jovi at the MCI Center, and, based on these 13 songs, it wouldn't surprise me if there were more arena shows in this band's future.