Advanced Copy: Maximum Balloon

Jeff Yerger

Normally when a producer decides to make a collaborative album, they tend to over-think and over-indulge. Quantity devours quality, and it just turns out to be too much to handle.

The magic that is released from producing other bands’ albums is nowhere to be found, but if a collaborative album is done just right, the results can be glorious. 

David Sitek, most known for being the guitarist and producer of experimental rock band TV on the Radio, has worked to become one of the most successful producers in the business. 

His signature ’80s-style Nintendo-electro sound has been the backbone of some of the best and most memorable albums of the past decade. 

Now, with some free time on his hands, Sitek invited some of his good friends to help him on his newest endeavor, dubbed Maximum Balloon.

Maximum Balloon’s self-titled debut has Sitek up to his usual tricks but in a different environment. Normally, Sitek would stay holed up in New York City while at work, but this time he decided to run this project in sunny Los Angeles. 

It’s a Sitek record for sure, because the layered bits and bites are all there, but overall, the record leans more toward the pop side. 

The mood is light and funky. It has that certain electro-disco feel to it without being too cheesy. It’s all 808’s and no heartbreaks for Sitek on “Maximum Balloon.” 

Although TV on the Radio have been on hiatus since their critically acclaimed “Dear Science” album dropped nearly two years ago, Sitek’s bandmates Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone provide vocals to two tracks on the album. 

Adebimpe wails over a buzzing synth and crashing cymbals on one of the album’s darker tracks, “Absence of Light.” Then Malone channels Prince while crooning a fragile falsetto in the slow-burning “Shakedown.” 

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is another artist who is very much indebted to Sitek for his production on their latest and most satisfying release to date: “It’s Blitz.”

As a treat to both Sitek and listeners alike, the over-the-top YYY’s frontwoman returns the favor by providing guest vocals in the sleazy track “Communion.” 

On the track, Karen O does what Karen O does best; her voice is soft but immediate at first, leading up to a frantic shrill as she sings “Give me that beat / Show your love.” 

It’s probably safe to say that Sweden’s Little Dragon is this year’s most unlikely hero. She first broke out with Damon Albarn on two beautiful “Plastic Beach” tracks by Gorillaz. 

Her delicate and childlike voice does not get lost in the mix but instead controls each song she is in. 

She appears for the song “If You Return,” a particularly captivating song like no other on this album. 

Speaking of captivating, David Byrne also makes the guest list on “Maximum Balloon,” though he doesn’t really need an introduction. 

 His cameo on “Apartment Wrestling” is flawless and is very much reminiscent of the Talking Heads in their glory days. The two Davids work well together, and this song is living proof. 

Sitek’s “Maximum Balloon” project is sure to get a lot of cheers and deservedly so. It is a perfect example of what this producer is capable of, and perhaps this is only the beginning. TV on the Radio fans are sure to enjoy Sitek’s work here, as they wait for him to deliver a “Dear Science” follow-up.