Posts Tagged ‘radiohead’

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Off This Century – My Favorite Albums of 2000-2009

December 25, 2009
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Thom Yorke – "Hearing Damage"

October 15, 2009
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Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

It has been a busy year for Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The band has released two new singles within the past three months: “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” and “These Are My Twisted Words.” You’ll hear neither on the radio. Yorke has also released two solo singles of his own, a cover of Mark Mulcahy’s “All for the Best” and a double A-side 12-inch of the songs “Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses” and “The Hollowed Earth.” In addition to this, he’s started an as of yet unnamed new band with Flea, Nigel Godrich, and others.

You’ll hear a lot of varying opinions on said activity if you ask a bunch of Radiohead fans. Opinions are pretty divided, but the general consensus seems to be that the new tracks are nifty, even pretty good, but a bit of a disappointment. I personally agree, for the most part. In particular, “Harry Patch,” as pretty as it is, sounds streamlined, and so do “Twisted Words” and the Yorke singles, even considering their experimentation. To me, “All for the Best” is the one that sticks out as the best, a glowing electronic pop piece. With all this said, I’ve been playing all of these tracks fairly often recently, so my disappointment is obviously rather minimal.

The latest bit of Thom Yorke related news involves one of the stranger releases of this year, the indie/alternative rock star-studded “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” soundtrack, which contains the work of Grizzly Bear and Beach House’s Victoria LeGrand, Bon Iver and St. Vincent, Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers, Muse and Thom Yorke himself, among others. Someone involved with the Twilight Saga clearly had a large wad of cash to blow and happened to decide that this soundtrack merited it.

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Mmm, mmm, kiss me Edward Cullen, kiss me lest I stain my petticoat with mine beads of anticipatory perspiration.

As you can expect from a cast like that, the disc is scattered in quality. It is split pretty much half and half between (and this is just one man’s opinion here) lame alternative-lite shit and moody, thoughtful pieces. Yorke leads the latter pack with his new song “Hearing Damage.”

As I write this, I’ve listened to the song maybe around ten times, and it is really beginning to bother me. I’m imagining Mr. Yorke would either take this as a bit of a put-down or a complement, and I should hope the latter. A lot of Radiohead’s greatest work has been willfully difficult and experimental, and every one of their albums within the past nine years have their artfully disturbing moments. Thom Yorke took the band’s electronic paranoia to another level with his excellent 2006 solo album The Eraser. Not many other artists have the ability to reliably get under a listener’s skin with their music.

“Hearing Damage” wouldn’t sound out of place on The Eraser, and for that reason complaints of Yorke not progressing his style beyond dark electronic music may be legitimate, but this also means that Yorke has really started to cement his own style as a solo artist, and we can tell that this is a Thom Yorke track immediately upon hearing it. The song still has it’s own thing going, though. It taps into something primal, and we can point to the pulsing, irregular rhythm for part of the explanation.

The piece seems to build and build and not climax, and it’s sonic identity is built around a shuddering, bassy synth. It is heard throughout the track, dipping in and out and warping as the song draws to a close, and is also mirrored by higher pitched synths throughout. In opposition to this inventiveness is that this track is slickly produced, as expected for a song on the soundtrack of a major motion picture. How complex and disturbing the song is contrasts with its immediacy.

As far as Yorke’s vocals and lyrics go, we are reminded here why he is still one of the best vocalists around. As we have heard on Radiohead albums as well as The Eraser, a little bit of echo goes a long way for Yorke, and raises his emotional momentum a hell of a lot. His singing here is hushed, also a lot like it was on the majority of songs on The Eraser.

The lyrics are, as expected, the heart of the song, and they solidify “Hearing Damage” as a classic cut. “You can do no wrong / in my eyes, in my eyes” may sound like sexy vampire type shit, but it’s got the typical Yorke sleeper effect, and when you really think about it, it’s pretty creepy. He switches back and forth between first and second person point of view here, and there is no short supply of affecting material. Even more harrowing: “A drunken salesman / your hearing damage / your mind is restless / they say you’re getting better, but you don’t feel any better.”

A slithering earworm, “Hearing Damage” crawls into your consciousness, stays there, and haunts you, like tinnitus. It’s no surprise that it is the odd duck out on this soundtrack, and nothing else sounds half as creative. Granted, its competition is lukewarm and straightforward, but the curiosity of how the song might be used in New Moon almost makes me feel like I could tolerate two hours of vampire smut to know. Well, not really. But it’s further proof that Thom Yorke still has the capacity to make great music in 2009, and paired with some of the other good compositions here, makes the soundtrack worth the price of admission.

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Admit it guys, pretty much the story of our lives for the past two years.

NOTICE: As you can see, all of the Radio Cure playlist posts have been deleted. Don’t worry, you can still view them on the “Radio Playlists” page, now accessible from the sidebar. I did this to open up space on the front page for more interesting posts, as the front page was getting cluttered with playlists that I post weekly and didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of content.

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News from the home front

August 11, 2008

Thought I’d explain why I haven’t been writing as much lately.

I’ve been working again, and that has been absorbing a lot of my time, but that doesn’t really last more than…well, at least five hours a day, at most eight, three days a week. Theres still a lot of downtime, but I’ve been either lazy or expressively content enough that I don’t feel the need to write quite as much. I wrote a short story about a month ago. That is a pretty rare thing for me. Maybe I’ll post that here eventually.

I went to Lollapalooza. I was thinking about writing on that, but it wouldn’t be plausible. I would have to write a book about it, so much happened. But at the very least I can say what bands I saw and a little bit about each.

  • Black Lips (Loud, fast, fun.)
  • Rogue Wave (Dull.)
  • Yeasayer (The band to beat for Friday. Only Radiohead beat them.)
  • The Black Keys (Loved em, I guess I should get into them. They are much like The White Stripes, which is my religion, so they’re my type of thing.)
  • Cat Power (Boring. We left after fifteen minutes.)
  • The Raconteurs (Pretty great. Played a long set and were enthusiastic.)
  • Radiohead (Best show I’ve ever been to. They put on a great show, but it mostly meant the world to me to finally see my favorite band live.)
  • Mason Jennings (Pretty boring. Nice little folk songs, but it wasn’t worth my sticking around for it to finish.)
  • The Foals (Pretty fun.)
  • DeVotchKa (The best band of Saturday. Very unique band with lots of heart, and fun live.)
  • Explosions In The Sky (Sounded exactly like the album. Very melodramatic.)
  • Does it Offend You, Yeah? DJ Set (Uh, entertaining enough.)
  • Lupe Fiasco (Not really into that kind of music, but he was fun.)
  • Rage Against The Machine (Played great, but the concert itself was miserable. People were getting hurt bad. I got gum in my hair. Fifty thousand person mosh pit. Not a lot of fun. I left halfway through to see…)
  • Wilco (Great, as always!)
  • Amadou And Mariam (Fun! Sounded great from the lawn.)
  • Black Kids (Horrible. worst “black” band there. Well, only bad “black” band there. I don’t think I was disappointed with any band more than these guys, but then again I didn’t know their stuff when I saw them. I just wanted to complete the “Black Trifecta” as I called it.)
  • Iron And Wine (Mellow. I liked it enough. I was a little bored by the end, but I want to get some albums now.)
  • Love And Rockets: Introduced by Perry Farrell! (Holy freakin balls. Amazing. The left field hit of the weekend. Played a blisteringly loud, fast, hard set. I love their music, and I look forward to getting into them. Great, great show.)
  • Nine Inch Nails (Awesome! their light show rivaled Radiohead’s, and they looked like they were having a lot of fun up there. Very enthusiastic. And a cool set.)

I do have some other things in the works. In particular, a big feature on my favorite EPs of all time. I made a top twenty list and I am progressively writing reviews for the ones I haven’t reviewed yet, and have been re-using old reviews or writing new ones for the ones that I had already written on. I’d expect myself to start posting those one by one soon. I’ve also got a couple other things tucked away that I have been working on in the long term, and I have gotten several new albums lately that I have been listening to. I finally bought the last of the Amon Tobin albums that I didn’t have and I plan on getting to know them better and possibly reviewing some of those.

I leave for college pretty soon. I don’t think that should effect what goes on here really. I’m going to be busy, but at the same time being in a new city where I don’t know anyone is probably going to leave me with a lot of desire to write things down, as I sometimes get. I would expect myself to actually write more once I get there, when I’m not studying, working, or doing whatever else I do.

Just thought I’d assure you that I’m still alive.

-A

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Radiohead – In Rainbows Bonus Disk

December 4, 2007

Well, seeing as how the diskbox has been shipped and people are starting to get their packages, I think it is appropriate to give a little acknowledgment to CD2 of In Rainbows, the bonus disk.

The disk consists of eight tracks, all of which are outtakes from the In Rainbows sessions. They sound like the other In Rainbows tracks in terms of production which to honest, isn’t really that great. I mean, the album is produced fine, but I have my gripes about it. Thom’s vocals sometimes need a little work. Especially the beginning of Bodysnatchers, where he sounds horribly aloft and mediocre, which makes no sense considering the end of that song has some of his best vocal moments ever.

But it just feels like more work could have gone into making these songs sound exciting. It was the same way with Videotape. Although there was an intended effect to the studio version of Videotape, it lost a great amount of it’s energy and charm from the live versions. Some of these recordings that we find on the bonus disk are equally as reserved, except this time more boring. Down Is The New Up was the reason I was excited about this bonus disk in the first place, and unfortunately it is given pretty lame treatment for how great of a song it is. Thom’s vocals are tired and mediocre, and the song could have been made much faster. The catch of it is that it is briefly dressed up with some really cool, sweeping strings, like the ones that make many of the In Rainbows songs really great. But they are very brief and should have been utilized more. To be honest, Down Is the New Up had the potential to be one of the best songs from the In Rainbows sessions, but it was simply botched. What you hear here sounds like a b-side, and it shouldn’t have been one. It’s nice to have the studio version though, even if it is a disappointment compared to some live versions you can get.

There was a big fiasco on a lot of Radiohead websites discussing what tracks MK1 and MK2 could possibly be once the tracklists were announced. Some people were thinking short instrumental interludes, and they were right. They are brief, minute long little vignettes that could have served as in betweens on the album. They sound interesting enough for what they are, but the choice to not include them was probably good, considering they are potentially uninteresting. You can hear how they fit in though. This makes them useful for understanding In Rainbows more, even if they are filler. But the catch is, they seem to come in a natural progression. MK1 rounds off Videotape, making this disk seem like an extention of the first disk. I, however, am pretty certain that both disks were not meant to be played together in this exact order. I guess I have no way of knowing for certain, but it is pretty obvious that the better tracks made the main release, and these songs don’t really feel like they progress as smoothly as the album.

There are some more relaxed, downtempo songs to be found here. Last Flowers was a favorite among fans, and was long hoped to clinch the album. However, it only made it as a b-side. It may be overrated, but it sure is a nice little song worthy of being recorded. When Thom shouts “Releeeeeasse” among his classic set of Radiohead lyrics, it reminds me of Morning Bell to a certain extent. It’s fractured, subtle, and ultimately beautiful. Quite nice. Another nice surprise is 4 Minute Warning. Instead of the sweeping piano treatment given during the live tour, the song is now mostly mellowed out. The finished product contains some nice vocal harmonization, acoustic guitar, piano, and tambourine, finished off with some nice studio tricks. It’s lazy, rhythmic, and potentially beautiful. A nice little surprise. It complements House of Cards very well. This easily could have been on the album.

The one I am probably most disappointed with is Bangers & Mash, but I was never impressed with it even when it was live. It’s a decent song, but sub-par when compared to the quality of most Radiohead songs. The drums sound dull, and it sounds like a rehash of Bodysnatchers, except this time kinda crappy. It sounds dry, to be honest.

What it needed was the kind of touchup that Go Slowly and Up On The Ladder are given. Both of these songs are fantastic. Go Slowly at first plays like a guitar accompanying a creepy old music box, and then quickly gains momentum and ends up being one of the saddest songs of the new bunch. Thom’s vocals are given an almost Sigur Ros esque treatment, building up to a heavy, desolate, trudging riff. It’s very nice. Up On The Ladder plays a similar game, but with more sheen. The song is bathed in beautiful echo, from the light percussion, to a lovely organ, to the vocals. The guitar riff has a comparably rhythmic twang to it.

In short, it’s good, as any Radiohead is, but you can see why these tracks are b-sides. This should be a no brainer for any fan though. These songs complete In Rainbows, and they are all very good. Production gripes aside, In Rainbows is a great album with great outtakes.

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Radiohead – In Rainbows

October 11, 2007

The new Radiohead album is here. I think that me explaining the circumstances behind the album are redundant and unnecessary, because it has been such a big deal lately, but I’ll do it anyway for those who haven’t heard. Radiohead have been working on their new album on and off for several years. With few announcements. Information has trickled through their blog, Dead Air Space, in fragments. Ten days ago, Radiohead announced that their new album, In Rainbows, would be released in ten days. Not in stores, not on iTunes (as if), and not on Amazon. The two ways that you can acquire Radiohead’s new album as of yet are through download and a diskbox to be released in December. Both are ordered directly from Radiohead via their W.A.S.T.E. shop on their website. You can pay as much as you want for that download. One hundred pounds. Ten pounds. Nothing. You can download this album for free. How much do you want to support Radiohead? The diskbox costs the equivalent of $80, and contains two CDs, art books, and two records. There is some speculation of an in-stores release early next year, but there is no solid evidence yet. Radiohead are a free agent. There is no record label.

This is by far the most bizarre album release I have ever heard of. It’s inconvenient to say the least. Not everyone can afford to drop that much money on the box set for the full In Rainbows experience, deal with currency exchange, or even use a credit card. Hell, not everybody has a record player. This release is somewhat difficult to receive, but on the other hand fans are hailing this as one of the most important album releases ever. Radiohead are not the first band to release something free of a record label like that, but no band this popular has released an album this anticipated in such a way. Within days of the announcement, Nine Inch Nails, Jamiroquai, and Oasis expressed their interest in independence of any record labels as well. Whether Radiohead have the power to put todays messed up record industry back in it’s place is not certain.

This is only so much of a concern, for now. The download has been released. Ten new Radiohead songs are streaming incessantly through the ears of, literally, millions of Radiohead fans. This is an exciting day. For having waited so many years, to have silently churned about a lack of new material for so long… And then they announce their album a week before release.

I am listening to the new Radiohead album.

Liberating.

Radiohead test drove most of their new songs on the tour last year. I had the official Mortigi Tempo bootleg of what users thought the album should sound like, MTLP7. Nothing could have prepared me for this album. Having the studio recordings is like making these songs new again. The concern for a lot of people was that the album would not have a distinct flavor, or theme, like all of the other Radiohead albums have had. This was likely a concern for the bands last album, Hail To The Thief, released in about the same with, with all the songs being toured and then released. Even when Radiohead’s albums are big puzzles or messes, they still fit together perfectly. Every one of these ten songs are wonderful. Radiohead have become so consistent that I am starting to get afraid. No one is without fault, but I have to search pretty hard to find fault in Radiohead’s music.

I’m finding it very hard to actually start reviewing the album here.

The album starts with the bands most rhythmic song to date, 15 Step, which starts as a mellow groove over a danceable backbeat. This was one hell of a selection for a first song, being one of the bands most popular new songs, but it also has a lot of work to do to let the listener know that the band have not lost their touch. On one hand, Thom Yorke’s voice is still in prime condition and has not deteriorated in the slightest since Hail To The Thief. The songs breakdown reaffirms how good the band is at developing their songs and going places with them. Never a dull moment. Especially surprising is the brief vocal sample of a group of school children that details the song twice. Mysterious, dark, energetic, even sexy.

What was impressive about Kid A and Hail To The Thief, how an album of completely unique and different sounding songs fit together well, also holds true about In Rainbows. The album can be dark, sad, or happy. But one of the finest, most recognizable new kicks that catches my ear throughout is the use of strings in many of the songs. In that way, Radiohead really hit my weak spot, because I am very much a sucker for those stringed instruments. Nude, All I Need, the completely new Faust Arp, and Reckoner among others contain these strings and use them to their fullest. It’s a lush, important sounding album. Also, in general, the album is much more beat driven.

Which brings up the first issue I have with the album. Sometimes the drums just don’t have enough power. 15 Step, House of Cards, and a few others could have used some live drums, or at least a touchup. Part of what made 15 Step so unbelievable when we first heard it was how ungodly heavy that bass was. It’s not really here anymore. Those 2006 tour bootlegs are still assets, because the earlier forms of these songs are, at times, very telling as well. The same goes for the closer, Videotape, which is a great song but lost a little bit of it’s urgency in production. This seems to be the biggest complaint about the album from fans. The original version built to a wrenching climax with guitars, but the final version has taken those away and left the ending more subtle. It’s another reason to get interested in those bootlegs. But the final product is what really matters.

In Rainbows can really rock out. Bodysnatchers and Jigsaw Falling Into Place both have a lot of muscle. I love that bassline on Jigsaw Falling Into Place. It complements the distorted vocals really well. The band still have that attention to detail that has made them so successful before. But the album is probably most impressive when it hits it’s softer, more emotional spots.

The song that caught me as most impressive on the first listen was Reckoner. Seeing where this song has come from the beginning is baffling. When it was first played in concert, Reckoner was a short rocker. It was an eastern sounding solo acoustic outing. Powerful, but simple. Just Thom on vocals and Jonny on guitar. Featured a minor second to make it sound a little eastern. Tough. It was one of my favorites. But on In Rainbows, Reckoner sounds completely different. It is easily my favorite song on the album. The song has been changed from energetic and almost angry to sad and momentous. Thom’s falsetto is chilling yet warm, haunting yet angelic. This song represents exactly what Radiohead does right with guitars, using them sparsely to detail songs even when it might take really close listening to notice them. Those strings are just downright disarming. It’s been a long time, since OK Computer really, that Radiohead have sounded this tragic and yet not helpless, or have been this detailed in their sadness. Complete triumph.

House of Cards is probably my second favorite, also a complete win. Never before have Radiohead made a song this relaxing or comforting. That isn’t to say that it is unrealistic though. While you could close your eyes and travel to some sunny beach easily within the care of this simple guitar riff, it also contains a little bit of stressed distortion and odd sound effects. In any case, this is one of the most gorgeous, strong, and happy songs the band has ever made.

What needs to be kept in mind is that this is not the full picture. This is In Rainbows, the album, but not the music in it’s entirety. Until we get the diskbox in December, we will have to wait to see the artwork and hear the bonus disk of other new material. But this is the strongest stuff, I trust. When we get the rest I can imagine things will only get better.

In Rainbows is perfect. Just as good as OK Computer and Kid A, which both also achieved perfection. I think what really amazes me is how completely forward Radiohead fans have been with this album even on this first day. It will take time for a nostalgic bond to be created, and that is what has made OK Computer and Kid A so loved. This bond is inevitable for In Rainbows. Even after recognizing my minor production gripes, they have dissolved after less than a day. This really is one of the best albums in years. I might even say the best album since Kid A. There are no bad songs. The album hits the whole emotional spectrum. What this album does, through it’s music as well as it’s circumstances, is completely cement the trust between artist and listener. What it also proves is that Radiohead are not comparable to anything but themselves at any given time, thus making what was already perfect shine even more. This is the new Radiohead album. This is Radiohead. This is perfection.

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Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Radiohead

September 15, 2007

I have a six month old, gorgeous baby cousin. He is truly the biggest miracle to happen to our family in a long time. I haven’t seen my family so closely knit and generally respectful to one another since we older cousins were kids. My grandmother’s house is like it has never been. While my aunt and cousin visit, the house is the center of attention. On any given night, eight people might be in the house all at once if not more. This is exactly the way my grandmother likes it. She loves attending to people and letting them into her home. It means the world to her that we are all here. Even more interesting is how much this baby has changed everyone individually. Even people who are at first glance too worn out for any significant change have been transformed by him.

While browsing at my local Best Buy a week ago, I checked the fairly large section of Radiohead CDs. Typically they just have the main albums, but for some reason lately most major electronics stores have had a lot of other stuff, namely the longer EPs, Airbag/How Am I Driving, My Iron Lung, and Com Lag. But I also saw Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Radiohead on the shelf and I got kind of confused. I had heard of it once before, but I assumed it was an import and that I would never see it on the shelves. I didn’t know anything about it. At first I dismissed it as a novelty and went on my way, but then I remembered my aunt and my little cousin who were currently in town and I found myself unable to resist dropping $15 on this thing. Half of me felt like I was doing the good thing by getting a gift for the little tyke, but I also felt guilty, as if I was kind of playing into my own interests by buying a Radiohead CD for someone who probably would not be able to appreciate it.

What I discovered upon giving it to my aunt was that she was elated and excited. She had already bought Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of The Cure (my aunt grew up in the eighties and has a high appreciation for the sublime melodies of The Cure) and was very pleased with it. Apparently, there are actually a ton of these CDs, for what seems like almost every major artist in a long time. Well, maybe not, but there are certainly a lot of these things.

http://www.rockabyebabymusic.com/web/page.asp?pgs=products

They have Lullaby Renditions of U2, The Beatles, Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, Tool, Led Zeppelin, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd, Bjork, The Beach Boys, Queens of the Stone Age… The list goes on. I was skeptical, because to be honest, the majority of those bands just don’t sound suited for lullabies, but what I found after sampling many of the songs was that these albums are very, very good. Apparently this is all done by one guy, who takes melodies by bands and weaves them into calm instrumentals played with glockenspiels, very soft beats, bells, and vibraphones. Some of these albums work better than others. Playing The Beatles, U2, or Smashing Pumpkins in this way is pretty safe, and pretty effective. However, when you start doing bands like Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, and Tool, you are going to end up with some fairly perverse, subtly evil sounding music that you probably wouldn’t want your little one falling asleep to. But I’m going to be honest here, who ever makes these knows what the hell he is doing. While Tool or Nine Inch Nails are not good for a child to fall asleep to, somehow this musician has been able to coax simple, driving melodies into very effective formats, and I have enjoyed the samples of both of those artists in lullaby format.

However, I have to remember what goals were set in place by this particular collection in the first place. It sounds like a good idea that would translate well. Radiohead have always been very melodic and at times relaxing while staying emotive. Second guessing isn’t good enough. I went to my grandmothers house a few nights later and tested the product. The baby started to cry uncontrollably at around seven or eight, and at that point we went into my grandmothers room where the crib is and flipped on the Radiohead lullabies. After my aunt put the kid down to rest and he was all snuggled up in his crib, she let me sit in the room and do my homework while listening to his lullaby CDs.

I know Radiohead’s music like second nature. I have listened to all of the albums more times than I can count, so I didn’t have to look at the back of the CD case to know what each song was. But this also comforted me, because I knew that the songs were given treatment that is faithful to the originals. The song selection is a little broken. The farthest back in Radiohead’s discography that the collection goes is OK Computer, so there is nothing from Pablo Honey or The Bends. But what is there feels natural. Some of Radiohead’s songs, Let Down, No Surprises, and Sail To The Moon, translate extremely well, and the new lullabies sound like they could be the true originals.

There are a few weaker selections. Why 2+2=5 was included is beyond me. It’s minor tonality is not suited for putting a baby to sleep, and while it is nice for adults to hear it, babies won’t be able to appreciate it very much. What I really love about these collections is how songs in minor keys sound completely different and creepy when played this way. But once again, not for the kids. Knives Out is another one that should not have been included. It is also a great Radiohead song, but it’s purpose is to confuse and disturb. For that reason, you kind of need to keep in mind what the actual agenda of the album is. Is this meant to be a collection of Radiohead lullabies for everyone, or a collection of Radiohead lullabies for babies?

But the best songs on here are almost too good for words. Not only will babies thoroughly enjoy these, but Radiohead fans of any age will be surprised and impressed. My favorite ones are the always lovely Airbag, There There, and an eye popping version of Everything In It’s Right Place. These versions are stripped down but still retain their original form, making them arguably even more moving than the originals.

While I sat there in bed watching my cousin, the treasure of our family that has been waiting to be discovered for years, listening to this little collection, I made a lot of realizations. I realized that my family wasn’t half as screwed up as I have always thought they were, that every one of us actually do appreciate each other deep down, and that things were really just beginning. I used to think that everyone was just going to grow old and things would fade out, now that all the children were essentially grown up. But I was wrong. Very wrong. This hour spent in my grandmothers bedroom doing homework will most likely be a fond memory to me years from now. It will also be remembered that I discovered a medium of music that truly interests me (I assure you I will be purchasing many more of these collections both for the baby and for myself), and that the baby did not wake up or stir even once.

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Radiohead – Amnesiac

August 29, 2007

This one is a quickie. I wrote a review for this one a long time ago. It’s still in the archives. I decided I didn’t like it so I redid it.

While Radiohead’s 2000 album Kid A was already a shocking experience, nothing could have possible prepared fans for what would proceed the album in only a year, the vastly obscure Amnesiac. Written as a parallels to one another, the two albums fit together like pieces of an obscure and disturbing, yet ultimately ingenious puzzle. Kid A had it’s fair share of uplifting moments throughout the paranoia and gloom, but Amnesiac pulled no punches, and searched for an answer in the same vein as Kid A. Both albums share some specific themes, as evidenced by the two separate versions of the song Morning Bell, but both have very different personalities. It seems as if both started in the first place, a single point of birth, and spiraled off spontaneously in opposite directions. Kid A made the climb ad infinitum, and Amnesiac dug into deeper ground and swam into darker water. The album is largely a disturbing search for some kind of resolution to life’s angst and internal pain, and the trip it takes to the answer is nothing short of astounding. But let’s not kid ourselves, the chances that any album after Kid A would have been an easy listen is zero to none. That’s not to say that this album is completely unaccessible. You have heard weirder music, but sometimes it feels like the emotional bomb is being dropped track after track, and the only thing that seems traditional are time signatures which aren’t even always present. Upon first listen, the record will mostly likely sound distant and unapproachable, but once the listeners ears decide to take the wheel and drive the music home, a beautiful flower blooms and things start to make sense. Each song is hand crafted in this way, to reap rewards over time, and only time will do this work. Most of the songs, such as Knives Out and Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors meander with no real resolution, perhaps representing some kind of ongoing search. There is some accessible material here, namely I Might Be Wrong, an electronic groove which builds itself fantastically into catchy layers which build and then destroy themselves to a wonderful effect. Many Radiohead fans also cite Pyramid Song as the bands best song. But simple lack of accessibility leads many to believe that the album is at fault despite how much someone can enjoy it in the end. Radiohead know that how much one wants to make a record that can tear down doors won’t necessarily make them deliver. While at first it may seem like a collection of songs that simply weren’t strong enough for Kid A, Amnesiac actually has more structure than it’s predecessor, and is just as enthralling when one finally comes to understand it’s ins and outs. While this is easily Radiohead’s most difficult, jarring, and wildly experimental album, it is also the most engaging, rewarding, and to some, the best.