Thursday, October 30, 2008

TVontheRadio - Dear Science

Feel free to browse metacritic for the reviews. Also go to their myspace page ( to listen to the entire record. It's all there!

This album is boring. I've given it around six listens all the way through. Tried headphones of differing quality, car speakers, laptop speakers, and home speakers. The record seemed to work the best on bikerides for me, as the lack of dynamics is suited to a ride with lots of outside noise. That said, the lack of dynamics make this record a boring experience for sitting down and listening.

The way in which the record sounds is what bothers me most. What struck me initially and still holds true is the fact that the album has two distinct realms: the vocal, and the instrumental. The organic vs. the inorganic. This could be an interesting thing to work with through the album, but no great revelation came to me (this is not a record that is interested in recording). Many of the tracks have a Main Melody Line (doubled or not) that appears to the listener as One Take. Then there are various overdubs that jump in and out of the mix willy-nilly. The overdubs are panned in awkward places and are especially apparent when wearing headphones . It has the appearance of laziness in arrangement. There is a lack of emotional impact to the vocals as well. The instrumental tracks lack dynamic subtly, and so when the vocalists got passionate, I felt uncomfortable, like there was an awkward friend doing karaoke at a bar and getting a little too into it. The instruments were never allowed to breathe with the vocalists, thus making the voices sound ridiculous and the instruments like a moving brick wall.

Arrangement: Most of the songs have programmed drums, guitar, bass, keyboards, various electronics (?), strings, horns, female vocals (appearing randomly at the end of the record in duet). Oh my, the drums bug the hell out of me. Very basic and could potentially be made interesting, but they come across more like a click-track than anything. All of the instruments sound like they're trying their hardest to be exactly on the beat and playing at exactly the same volume level throughout. It sounds careful, not tight. Each instrument also appears to be mixed in isolation. When the horns come into the mix a quarter of the way through the album, it does not sound exciting or new. The horns sound like close-miked horns. The strings sound like close-miked strings. The electric guitars sound like close-miked electric guitars. The drums sound like presets (save a few tracks, where they sound actually interesting "Halfway Home" (the toms) or "DMZ" where they sound like REAL drums). All of these super clean instruments sound too matter-of-fact and appear stale and lifeless. The electric guitars chug along to finish two or three of the tracks on "Dear Science" in a way that sounds glib and redundant. There is no interesting NOISE to the sounds on the record, so to prolong outros and such made my attention wander to places elsewhere.

The songwriting! To me, boring! Nursery rhyme melodies! Simple forms! This is pop, rock, and electronica. There is nothing avant about the way in which sounds are arranged. In fact I agree with the reviewer from Pitchfork who talked about TVOTR's live performances and how these songs could be made more interesting in a live setting. I agree. Strip away the redundant and unnecessary overdubs and streamline the arrangements. Then rehearse a lot with the band. And make sure to use a real drummer. Bam. "Powerful" "pop/rock" musc. This record isn't bad, it just sounds like well-polished demos.

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