Monday, November 2, 2009

USA v. World (Round 2): TV On the Radio v. Bloc Party

Last week, Regina Spektor edged out Kate Nash in Round 1 of bip-bip.'s USA v. World competition. This week's competition is between TV on the Radio (Brooklyn, NY) and Bloc Party (UK) (seen above); and just as last week was a close call, this week is likely to engender an ever greater split of opinion. In fact, I'm guessing most people might disagree with me on this one.

For starters, I decided to compare these bands because both, I think, are raw-sounding indie-bands that have garnered widespread, and mostly deserved, critical acclaim for their best albums. Sure, TV on the Radio is slightly more experimental -- but I think both bands often sound like they are forging similar musical paths (just take a listen to the two songs posted -- TV on the Radio's Wolf Like Me and Bloc Party's Like Eating Glass).

In my opinion, Bloc Party's best album to date was their 2005 debut album, Silent Alarm. The album was named NME Album of the Year, which is an obviously huge accomplishment in the U.K. It also won the PLUG Awards' Indie Rock Album of the Year (2006). Likewise, TV on the Radio's best album, I think, was their 2006 album entitled Return to Cookie Mountain. It was named Album of the Year by SPIN, along with numerous other accolades such as being named 4th Best Album of the Year by Rolling Stone.

WINNER: Bloc Party. US - 1. World - 1.

As I said, this was a close call. I love both bands, but the game-breaker for me was the reception of some of their follow-up albums. Bloc Party's latest release Intimacy was a solid album, that generally got solid reviews. TV on the Radio's latest album Dear Science was also a great album, but it seemed like everyone gave it a free pass. The fact that it won Best Album of 2008 by Rolling Stone, SPIN, MTV, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, and Pitchfork's Reader's Poll literally baffles me. I thought 2008 was one of the strongest musical years we've had in a while, with new (really good) albums from: Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Ryan Adams, Vampire Weekend, Blitzen Trapper, Of Montreal, Ra Ra Riot, The Black Keys, Girl Talk... and that doesn't even include more popular acts like Coldplay and Kings of Leon.

I'm not saying the album isn't good-- but with that many great albums... it shouldn't have been so dominant. You might argue that their critical success in no way supports TV on the Radio from being ranked worse than Bloc Party. You might be right-- but I'm still a little bitter about Bon Iver not picking up a few more awards.

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