Posts Tagged ‘radiohead’

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Shuffle Time (the snow is shining)

February 19, 2007

I guess I’ll do another shuffle, as I really have nothing better to do at the moment (four day weekend!).

Gorillaz – M1A1

One of the more punky songs on Gorillaz 1. I’ve always been a huge fan of this album, it’s really an album from my childhood. I was in eighth grade or so when I got this album and I got really excited about it, so I listened to it constantly, and I realize now that I liked it so mich for a good reason. It’s a friggin awesome album. It shifts so wildly and spontaneously with so much skill, and it never bores you. M1A1 is an ass kicker, like Punk I suppose, but it take a while to get to it’s point because it has this creepy little atmosphere thing going on at the beginning. In it’s own little strange way, Gorillaz is a masterpiece, and even though some of the songs might be confusing or strange, the album only has one or two weak songs. This is not one of them.

Nick Drake – Hazey Jane 1

My favorite Nick Drake album has always been Pink Moon by a longshot, and Bryter Layter has always been my least favorite. I guess the production always just felt very lacking. The strings are pushed to the back and have this very repetetive almost sleazy feeling to them. Bryter Layter is a good album, no question, but it shows it’s age after a while when Five Leaves Left and Pink Moon still sound great today. I think it’s on At The Chime of a City Clock where there is this long elegant saxaphone solo that just annoys the shit out of me. It just screams seventies, and not the seventies I like either. If they haden’t put the sax so low in the mix it would have been fine too. It’s got that echo on it that just doesn’t sit well with me. This is a good song though. It is more reminiscent of Five Leaves Left. I just really wish that Nick Drake hadn’t subdued himself so much in his music. He broke free and did what he really wanted to do on Pink Moon and that is why it’s such a touching record, but Bryter Layter just doesn’t have what it takes to carry on.

Rammstein – Mein Herz Brennt

This is a choice Rammstein song that makes use of great strings and some crunching guitars, yadadadadada. I’ve gotta tell you guys this story… I was down in Chicago one day around Christmas and a friend and I were sort of going record store hopping. We stopped at this small place called Rock Records because it looked like it would have the more obscure stuff we wanted. It didn’t have anything we wanted, and what few things appealed to us were way too expensive. So we sucked it up and walked into Virgin, and they had everything. It was ridiculous… I was specifically looking for some Mudhoney and Screaming Trees and they had pretty much everything by both bands, not to mention everything I would have ever wanted by Meat Puppets and everything else that was on my wishlist. I was fucking impressed. It’s my new favorite record store, I think. One of my friends is a huge Rammstein freak and he saw a Rammstein box set that came out last year I believe to accompany their tour on a shelf, that I believe contains a cd and a dvd. It’s called Volkerball, and it’s a rare import that usually runs for fifty bucks, sometimes even more. He found it on the shelf for thirty five bucks. I was about to smack him on the backside of the head for considering it because I wasn’t sure of it’s real value, but in any case he took it up to the counter and they had some trouble with it because it’s a rare import and shit… He ended up getting it for five dollars. I nearly crapped my pants. Depending on how you look at it, that’s a huge value. Easily the best deal on music I’ve ever seen. The cashiers looked so weirded out. He doesn’t have a region free DVD player which is I guess the only problem, but he still loves it and it is a choice live album. I’ve heard most all of it and it’s great, very crisp heavy sound quality.

Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight

Goddam, I just keep getting songs with strings today. Another great use of an orchestra. For the most part, the strings are out in front in this song and the guitars are more subdued, making the feeling very momentous and special. It’s really a song that you have to crank the volume to get the best out of, but it is classic Pumpkins for sure. It is probably the most pretty thing they ever wrote that made it to the radio, and this is one of the openers to the bands sprawling double disk Mellon Collie for a reason. The lyrics are pretty wonderful too “The indescribeable moments of your life (tonight, tonight)/The impossible is possible (tonight, tonight).” It’s just great. The ending is a nice explosion of energy and the song ends on the subtle note that it started out on.

Pia Fraus – No Need For Sanity

For as much as Pia Fraus rips on a lot of other shoegaze bands, In Solarium is still a great album. For sure this is one of it’s more individual and unique songs. It goes at a very slow pace. The bassline is cool and the guitars mimic Lush and MV at times but it is a nice song noetheless. One problem it does have is that it has problems really going anywhere. The long guitar solo instrumental parts are very nice though and give the rest of the song a lot of meaning. It’s probably what you would want to hear if you were on a beautiful tropical beach and you wanted it to snow just for five minutes.

Led Zeppelin – Friends

One of Zeps more underrated songs, and it’s on my favorite Zep album too. It starts off with a fairly simple guitar strum, but the indian influences come in full force very quickly a solo guitar playing very distinct little ditties and then the addition of (holy shit) some very soaring strings and Robert Plants voice when it was in it’s prime. I’ve learned something about eastern scales lately; most indian music uses it’s own modified scales for ragas and such, but a lot of times indian music is variation on the harmonic minor scale, and the varient is specifically the minor second. You may say, but Alex, isn’t the minor second the same as the major second? Actually, no. A minor second is just a chromatic, or a half step. It’s not the way it works in the normal minor scale but it is still called a minor seond for some reason. So you get that really rich indian sound by digging that second a half step lower so it’s just next to the first, specifically on the descending scale and not so much on the ascending. You can hear it here pretty distinctly as it really gives shape to the indian sound.

The Barenaked Ladies – Alcohol


Eh. There is a fine line between sleazy 90s rock and simply apathetic 90s rock. It’s not that great. When it goes off into the annoying little anthem at 1:45 it’s practically asking me to skip the rest of the song. You could do better for drinking songs. Mostly those should be more testosterome fueled than this, which ends up being pretty repetetive and boring. Whatever.

Elvis Presley – A Little Less Conversation (Radio Edit)


There is no reason this wasn’t featured on the Oceans 11 soundtrack. Period. It was released on an Elvis greatest hits compilation at almost the exact same time, and it’s a great remix. The movie instead settled for the original version. Stupid stupid stupid. I can just picture Andy Garcia flipping a shit at his realization of the heist at one of the songs great chorus transitions. It has a great bassline and the mood is well improved over the original while not sacrificing any of the Kings charm. It’s got trend and some great horns and energy highs. If you were ever to crank an Elvis song, this would be it. Yes, it may be a radio edit but even the original is extremely cool. I got no problems with the king and this is a great song no matter how it’s sliced.

Radiohead – Paranoid Android


Some people call this the modern day Bohemian Rhapsody, but that’s actually an insult. To Radiohead, I mean. Queen never meant much of anything, and I could never take them seriously. This is one of OKCs more serious songs and it is very rhythmic and reminiscent of everyday modern life, which is very much what this album is all about. Not a lot can be said about this album that hasn’t been said before, but I do still discover new things about this album every so often. As a friend pointed out to me, there is some nice foreshadowing in the song with the Apple robot sounds in the background forecasting what is to come on the great filler Fitter Happier. What is really strange about this song is that it sort of comes in distinct movements, the one at 3:32 being the most developing and poignant. When the vocals start to triple up the effect is hauntingly beautiful. I have some great memories of listening to this album a few years ago. I know it’s nerdy, but I associate a lot of music with video games, and OKC is totally perfect for Final Fantasy VIII. The huge open plains for Airbag, the nighttime city for Exit Music, and the wonderful technological Garden for Let Down. It’s a choice song from a perfect album.

Xymox – Spiritual High


One of the two good songs off of Headclouds, the other being A Single Day. The fact of the matter is that most people would buy headclouds just for the club hit A Single Day which is very good, but the rest of the album isn’t that great. I guess I haven’t given this band enough attension, as they are a pretty big deal in the electronica genre. They usually go under the name “The Clan of Xymox,” so I guess the career of “Xymox” is pretty mediocre while The Clan has had some pretty monumental albums since ’85 up until today. They aren’t small time, that’s for sure. But they aren’t exactly my favorite of their genre but I sure as hell won’t turn them off if they squeeze into any of my industrial/electronica/club loving friends mix CDs. Club hits, not too much more.

I guess that was ten. That’s all for now.

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Christmas Playlist

November 14, 2006

I make a lot of playlists on my iPod, but to be honest, the majority of them are total crap. Most of the time, I just kinda randomly put a bunch of songs that I am into at the moment onto a playlist and leave it extremely unbalanced and uneven, and nothing really connects the tracks at all. But every once and a while I end up with an arrangement of songs worth keeping. Not THAT often, but sometimes. I don’t know if this playlist is one of them, but I tried at least.

Really, the idea at first was to make it a playlist for Winter in general, but then it sort of escalated to a Christmas thing, just because really, the best part of Winter is when it starts in December through Christmas. Or rather, the holidays. I guess I want to be politically correct anyway (not that anyone should ever really care), but the gist of the album is to cover the time before the big holidays. Christmas just happens to be the religious holiday that I celebrate, albeit non-religiously, so that was the end result. I sort of had an image or an idea in my mind when I made this playlist, which is essentially the first step to making a great playlist anyway. You need to have a solid idea or at least a set of them, and a certain flow to the songs. And it needs to develop and progressively go somewhere. I’m not going to post the entire playlist here because I honestly don’t think it flows very well, but I’ll talk about some select tracks.

Baby It’s Cold Outside by Leon Redbone & Zooey Deschanel

Every good Christmas compilation needs a low key piano jazz holiday song like this. In fact, you could damn well make a CD full of stuff just like this. People do. But personally, the mood of these types of songs are something that I can easily get tired of. But this is a great song, no doubt. It was originally made in 1949 and is pretty much the perfect winter warm-up lazy duet. This particular version was on the soundtrack to the movie Elf, but there have been countless renditions since Frank Loesser wrote it so long ago. Througout the song, the female singer traditionally sings the main melody, while a typically deep voiced male accompaniment sort of passively comments on all of the womans standard lines of the Christmas tune with musings of his own. Truly a classic, and a great version of it at that. The perfect song for when you wake up to snow for the first time in November or December and think to yourself, “Aw shit, it’s the holiday season, isn’t it?”

Airbag by Radiohead

This was the first song I ever properly listened to by Radiohead, and I remember thinking to myself when I heard it, wow, this is really something special. I could rant for a while about how OK Computer is one of the greatest albums ever, but you all have surely had enough of that by now. Typically, this is the best song for me for getting up in the morning to a busy day. Not only is it a great and pretty underrated tune, but it’s Christmas-y. It even has the sleighbells, which are actually pretty hard to effectively work into a tune. The lyrics still always get me, especially when he says “An Airbag saved my life.” A really nice tune for any time of the year, but it is very fitting to winter in particular.

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight) by Asobi Seksu

I think you could argue that the heroes of the indie rock scene in New York this year are Asobi Seksu. Not only did they release a dropdead gorgeous album, Citrus, but they are touring and have a lot of merchandise and treats for people directly from their website. The most interesting of these treats is what I have a reason to believe was the first officially released Asobi Seksu song ever, although I think they had another name before Asobi Seksu so I very well could be wrong. The release is a joint EP of two Christmas songs released only on transparent green vinyl. PAS/CAL did a song, and Asobi Seksu did this one. It’s really very cute, as you would not normally expect shoegaze to cover Christmas song territory, but this band does and it works out pretty well, in a power punk/pop sort of way. You can just hear the guitars taking over when Yuki’s voice yelling the title of the song fades into the pillow of sound below. Nice, very nice.

Goodbye by Kevin Shields

You all know I just can’t possibly make a playlist these days without including something by one of my new favorite bands. Well, this isn’t actually by MBV, but I did include Soon, so you can count that in (come on, the sleighbells are just way too delicious). But I decided to include this too, from the Lost In Translation soundtrack. Of the four 2003 Kevin Shields orchestrations, this one might just be the most pretty. It’s not straightforward pop like City Girl and not electronic beauty like Are You Awake, but it is just very relaxing synthesizer ear candy. Decidedly it is very remeniscent of Becalmed and Zawinul/Lava by Brian Eno, but that’s good. You can really say a lot without saying anything, especially when you aren’t even using traditional instruments, in music. The piece is very momentuous, a bit somber, and also wonderfully reminiscent of times that one doesn’t want to go away. Get the Lost In Translation soundtrack if you can, it’s great. Filled with lots of priceless gems like this.

Lorelei by Cocteau Twins

Cocteau Twins are one of those bands that are so beautiful that it is painful. I don’t even know much about them and I can say that with the utmost confidence. And not because you want more Cocteau… There is more than enough material by the band to go around. These guys can simply make your heart melt by being themselves, beautiful, ethereal, and completely priceless. That explains why a “CocteauFest” is held every year. Expect me to review these guys again soon. They just seem like the band that I will end up getting obsessed with soon enough. Which is, as you all know, not good for my continued recovery, so I’ll keep it to Library checkouts and Christmas gifts for now. Anyway, fantastic song. Very Christmas-y, and it even has wintery synthesizers in the backdrop and guitars that are wispy like a first snow. This is how vocals should really be treated in dreampop…not even real words, but the tongue of ones own mind and feelings, completely unintelligible to anyone else but undeniably full of feeling.

Christmas At The Zoo by The Flaming Lips

If you haven’t gone to your local zoo in the dead of winter, well, you really should. It’s great. First off, it gets you off your ass and away from the eggnog for a few hours, which has got to be good for you, and the entire experience is just a lot of fun. No one is there, or at least very few people are, because it’s just cold, so you can kind of not worry about crowds. Beyond that, the animals love it when people visit them during such an otherwise dull and unpopular time of year to go to the zoo. Maybe this song is a little too fun and jangley to adequately capture such a visit, but it’s a necessity for this playlist. Strangely enough, although the subject matter is just as silly and cute as any other Lips song, this is one of the more straightforward and conventional the band has ever made.

Lovelife by Lush

I always thought that this song would be great for the soundtrack to a romantic comedy or something, which is a shame, because I typically dislike romantic comedies. But I make almost all of my playlists with images of a movie that I imagine in mind. No sleighbells in here, but it almost seems like there are, and the lyrics are diaphanous and sweet. The lyrics are very thought provoking too, comparing love and it’s ups and downs to different aspects of nature and life.

Good Day Sunshine by Slowdive

No, it’s not a cover of the song by The Beatles. It’s an original Halstead instrumental offof the 5 EP, also on the release of Souvlaki with the bonus tracks. In my mind, the ‘movie’ that this playlist is for comes to a hard point right before the end, and the main character ends up having a really shitty Christmas eve. But they wake up really really early in the morning, maybe before sunrise, and for whatever reason, everything is beautiful. The streets are empty, the decorations are all up, and even though almost no one is anywhere but home, all of the Christmas lights and neon signs are still lit. And then they go into the shell of a shopping mall, where only a few scattered stores are open, and the sun starts to rise. And it goes through the glass windows perfectly. And this song is playing through the entire ending sequence. And that’s all I’ve got, I guess that’s how my daydream ends.

Well, I didn’t (and couldn’t possibly) cover each and every song on the playlist, but I hit some more interesting ones I guess. Maybe it is just a tad early to be worrying about Christmas and the holiday season, but soon enough I’ll be gift shopping, and I’ll play this in the car.

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Radiohead – My Iron Lung [EP] / Airbag/How Am I Driving? [EP]

October 30, 2006

Radiohead – My Iron Lung [EP]

Radiohead may be an alternative gargantuan today, but before they dove into the ocean of experimentation, they were a fairly straightforward and enjoyable pop/rock band. This timeframe could be described as starting with The Drill EP, the bands first release, and through Pablo Honey to The Bends. The Bends is easily the bands best album from this period, and Pablo Honey is comparatively inferior and even a bit mediocre save a few very strong moments. The disk that seemed to be forgotten in obscurity is this EP which was released in between Pablo Honey and The Bends. It features only one album track from The Bends which gives it it’s name, and otherwise delivers on the level of containing enough new material at the time to almost constitute an album if they added one or two more tracks.

The title track is obviously a winner, but the b-sides are what the fans will flock to this one for. Strangely enough, the disk gets reliably weaker as it goes along. The first b-side on the disk, The Trickster, is generally argued to be one of the bands absolute best b-sides period, and surely deserved to make it to The Bends in replacement of perhaps a weaker song such as Sulk. It’s crafty and many times snide attitude gives it true color. Lewis (Mistreated) almost could have been a Pop Is Dead clone, but instead makes itself out to be fine guitar pop. Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong ends up being a warm, comforting endeavor and Permanent Daylight is a delightful outing into guitar layering pop heaven. After these tracks, the songs get progressively worse but still comfortably abrasive and nice. Lozenge of Love is a very quiet ballad with only so much direction. The final b-side, You Never Wash Up After Yourself, is quite the elementary and unsophisticated little blurb. The EP reaches it’s low point with an accoustic take of Creep where Thom Yorkes vocals and guitar playing are clearly not in tune. This version is inferrior to it’s Pablo Honey predecessor in every way, not even getting remotely close to catching the energy of the original pop anthem.

This is really not just your average EP full of sub par b-sides. It was a gateway into the era of The Bends and on it’s own has some pretty great material. This is a pretty big haul of material for an EP, especially considering it’s fairly obscured time of release, but it is well worth getting. It’s not that hard to track down and has a wealth of great material that is essential for Radiohead fans to feast on eventually.

Radiohead – Airbag/How Am I Driving? [EP]

Fast forward five years.

When Radiohead released OK Computer, there was a pretty big immediate buzz. Every song was in some way a type of revelation to the fans, and praise of surpassed expectations could be heard from fans of not just the British pop band but also fans of alternative rock. With the unanimous love for the album through critical praise and sheer sales came a slew of singles. This Japanese import is a compilation of not only a brilliant track from OK Computer, Airbag, but also six b-sides compiled from the OKC era singles. The disk is worth the high import price you may need to pay for it, as the songs are all classic Radiohead tracks.

Pearly is very much in the same vein as The Trickster was around five years earlier. The song plays with a sneaky and almost sinister mood at times, and ends up being one of the catchier b-sides the band ever made. This track alone would make even an expensive import an essential for the hardcore Radiohead fan, but the rest of the disk does justice to even the most touching moments of OKC by creating a simmilar atmosphere and feeling. Meeting In The Aisle is a fantastic drifty instrumental that complements the OKC era art as good as the strongest of the bands A-Sides. The next song, A Reminder, is a wonderfully relaxing piece that even complements the instrumentation with ambient background city noise (possibly Japanese noise, as this was a CD to accompany a Japanese tour) and a tired sounding Thom Yorke producing more poetic gold. The surreal and curiously pretty Polyethylene, Pts. 1 & 2 is a tough one for any listener to fit their head aroun, but worth getting to know in the end. Melatonin is another nice ambient gem that would almost be worthy of accompanying Fitter Happier as an effective transition piece elsewhere on OK Computer. And Palo Alto, a louder and more catchy and abrasive rocker ends the EP with great success.

If you are one of the many who were touched by the beauty and creativity of OK Computer and feast for more simmilar material, and wouldn’t mind shelling out a fair bit of cash for this rare import, the purchase wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s clear why these songs are b-sides, that much is very obvious, but it should be noted that these all feel like lost passages in the masterpiece that is OK Computer. If taken in the same light as that of OK Computer, this is a great collection.

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Thom Yorke – The Eraser

July 12, 2006

Thom Yorke’s first solo album is very much a broken blessing. It is good, yes, and it actually pretty close to the kind of thing I was expecting. It is said that one of the main themes of The Eraser is to forget the past and to put things behind you that you care not to remember anymore. I can fully relate to this issue, and I often end up punching myself for things that I did even when I was a little kid, or even over things that haven’t happened. So how do I deal with it? I hold my breath and move on. Thom Yorke seems as stressed a person as any, and I’m assuming that he does the same thing, but when you have a creative drive for creating music, why not utilize this medium to help the problem? The disk by no means completely quenches my thirst for more Radiohead material because it is not like Radiohead at all, but in the context that this is at least written by the key player in the Radiohead experience, it is very pleasing for whatever reason.

Radiohead has sort of been in limbo (yeah, whatever.) since Hail To The Theif came out. That may have been Radioheads most diverse and varied album. When you try all sorts of things at once, where do you go next? Well, it’s not that this is too much of a journey off of Radioheads work. It is being released in the off month of Radioheads tour where they are test driving new material for release. But that doesn’t stop the fact that there hasn’t been a Radiohead album since 2003. Fans are getting jittery, considering the band has never had a three year break before. So this is a good treat, deffinitely. And the really special thing about this album is that it’s clearly nothing that could have been released in the context of Radiohead. It is very electronic and dreary and quite honestly doesn’t have material that can be played with a full band.

It’s a record to loose yourself in. I’m sure it was sort of that way to make too, as most of the samples and effects are simple and obviously synthetic. It is clear that effort went into making this album, but not that much. What I have gathered is that Thom Yorke had begun to learn how to work with his computer much more on making music, and the album is more of a result of many ideas that were put together or expanded on. In fact, parts of the title track aren’t even his ideas. The piano sample was done by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead a few years ago, and I can almost picture Thom Yorke tapping a beat to go along with the tune created by the sample somewhere near his laptop. And then perhaps him looking at his laptop and understanding what he should do.

Like Thom himself says, “solo album” makes it seem like he was more detatched from the band than he was when he was writing it, and “side project” almost makes it seem too miniscule. But to some extent, this is a minor release. Yes, it has been getting the attension as if it was a major label album, and almost seems like it is in some ways. But it is very much a side project. At least I think it is. It is what Mr. Yorke completed in his spare time, and while the music is very good, it need not be too harshly critiqued, because the mans work is clearly most concentrated on Radiohead. So this album is more of a treat than anything. But what a treat it is. Just as the band starts to drift back toward guitar driven pop, this is released on the exact opposite of that spectrum.

But the album is anything but refreshing. It’s themes are varied, mostly because they are various ideas pooled into an album. Sometimes harsh memorys are discussed. Other times, releationships. And there are even some important current events to be heard in the lyrics, involving the war on Iraq and the environment. But then again, it is also nice to hear a track that is just about rain. A lot of what this album shows us is that Thom Yorke is not exactly the only necessary member of Radiohead, and that the rest of the band is what makes ideas that everyone has come out in a more refined way. Of course, ideas are flowing from Thom constantly, but not all ideas are good for the band. So this is a collection of the ideas of Thom Yorke exclusively that are not able to be covered elsewhere. If the album had a mouth, it would surely tell the listener that these are some issues that need to be gotten out of the way so that other more important things can progress. This is essentially Thom Yorke putting all of his cards out on the table and getting personal. And his out-in-front vocals are great for that kind of creative environment.

If you are a curious Radiohead fan who wonders if this would be for you, I have a feeling it would. Radiohead fans are wired in a certain way so that they are very openminded. A majority of the bands songs are nothing like anything else the band has made. So these people ended up being pleasently surprised in a myriad of ways when Hail To The Thief came out. By that point, the band had traversed the musical globe, so to say. They had done the guitar pop, the electronic, and everything in between. And a lot of other branching styles too. The Eraser is not an unpredictable listen like Hail To The Thief was, but it plays more in a way that the listener will not be suprised (but still will be amazed) by what comes next.

The sound of the album is very melancholy and confusing. And very negative in many ways, too. The writer is skilled enough to know that the listener does not want pessimism necessarilly, but more a vague summary of what is going on at the moment. All hope is not lost, but there is a point where things need to be fixed. But when you don’t think about all this jargon so much, the songs are very individual and enjoyable, if not a little unnerving. Analyse is what you would think to hear during that impossible math test you took in high school that caught you way off guard. Atoms For Peace is what the introverted loner hears when he decides to turn his life around. Cymbal Rush is what the prisoner hears in his last moments. It can all be very disturbing, but there is a certain degree of beauty even in the more sad parts of the album. But there are more straightforward tracks too. Harrowdown Hill, the albums first single, is a knock-out. Fans will come to understand and love the vocals immediately. Black Swan is a funky toe-tapper that speaks of failure. It is a little difficult to tell who “you” is in this song, but the simplistic “this is ****ed up” is a call that even non-fans will understand. And my personal favorite, And It Rained All Night, has the vocalist almost spelling out for you what is trying to be relayed, and that is a comfortable break from the pretty open-endedness of the typical Radiohead song.

The Eraser is not to be mistaken for a replacement for a Radiohead album. In fact, it is nowhere close to the quality of a Radiohead album, but no one was expecting it to be. It’s a quickie, it’s enjoyable, and it is a good way to tide over fans until the real prize is recieved. It’s not perfect or even a great piece of work, though it is consistant in quality. The bottom line is, this is the result of Thom Yorke taking bits, pieces, leftovers, and even trash and sculpting it into something beautiful. And if this is where Thoms mind goes when it’s not on schedule, I’m not worried at all about his future in songwriting.

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Radiohead – Amnesiac

June 3, 2006

 

Radiohead has always been sort of a hit or miss band. Some people “get” them, and some people take the lack of consistency as a weakness. In many ways, it is a weakness, but it surely refines the fanbase quite a bit. Out of all of Radioheads albums, Amnesiac might be the definitive hit or miss album. It was meant to be released as sort of a companion record to Kid A, and that really didn’t help it much. In my opinion, Kid A is a masterpiece. While Amnesiac is nothing close, it is still respectable. I’m not sure how the band decided what tracks would go on what disk, but this is the weaker of the two by means of strong tracks if nothing else. It may be more focused, and it may have its ideas more organized than Kid A, but that is exactly what makes it the less liked album. There are still many surprised to be found here, though.

Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box is an interesting note to start the album off on. It’s a very skewed track. The synthesizers and electronic beats will come as familiar in some way to Radiohead fans who remember Kid A. The core of the song comes in a tightly packed cowbell type sound, with looming sound effects that sort of climb upward, in a routine spiral. I like it, but I don’t really know why. This kind of track relaxes me for some reason. I get tired a lot, and I have ADD, so I tend to just drift off when I am listening to music. This is one of those such songs that I can just get taken away during, by the routine beat. Actually, that happens a lot on Kid A too. Both albums have this very exact beat and very accurate presentation, even if there doesn’t seem to be too much order to the madness all the time.

Pyramid song is a highlight and a fan favorite. It really makes you think. Radiohead definitely did some good by putting this in here. It’s another very surreal song, and I believe it was inspired by a dream that Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke had. It shows in the nonsensical lyrics.

I jumped in the river and what did I see?
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
All the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

I do a lot of dreaming, and only occasionally do I remember them, but when I do, I try to write what I’m thinking down. Usually, it doesn’t come out in full coherent sentences, but a lot of times, this is the kind of thing I would write down. I’m not trying to say that this is what Thom did, but I can see how this can be traced back to a dream. It is a very drifty and dreamlike song too, and it is really trance inducing, especially when you are tired. The song is very beautiful, and the piano is just fantastic. But even more impressive is the power of the orchestra. I THINK there is a cello buried somewhere in there, but I could be wrong. The reason why the cello is great is because it has a huge presence even when your ear can’t pick it out. If it was any deeper like the bass or lighter like the viola, it would be much more easily recognizable. It is the perfect instrument for an acid trip song like this. Once again, I’m not sure that there is even a cello in here, but I’m pretty sure… It just feels like there is, you know?

Pull/Pulk Revolving Doors is just what it sounds like it is. Weird filler. It doesn’t really make any sense, and the words speak of doors, hidden and out in the open, and how people go through them. There is a little bit of filler in this album, but it isn’t nearly as interesting as the filler in Kid A, that’s for sure. You And Whose Army? Seems to be a fan favorite too. Well, I don’t want you to take that wrong, because I am definitely a fan. But I can’t see too much in it for some reason. It’s kind of a lazy strummy guitar type piece. Later on, it opens up, and I can sort of see what the point is, but it still isn’t one of my favorites.

I Might Be Wrong is the best song on the album. There was no question in my mind the first time I heard it. I for a fact that to prove that statement untrue, the rest of the album would have to pull something unbelievable, more unbelievable than this. It is one of the most played songs on my iPod, and to complement that, I have at least four live versions of it. It’s just that good. It really plugs along with the electronic flow, and the guitar part is very detailed. The entire song is very detailed, actually. The bassline also stands out to me, because it is very detailed. The lyrics are also very respectable, and I think they are about how much Thom loves his wife. It’s an extremely catchy song, and one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever. It’s just amazing.

Knives Out still follows in the steps of the rest of the album. The album definitely has it’s own distinct feeling, as opposed to the diverse Kid A. A lot of it feels like that climbing that I mentioned before. This is one of the more routine round based songs that follows the feelings very well. It’s the more accessible song on the album, because it actually features some real live guitars, and real live drums. It feels like this would play at some bittersweet moment, but what I have in my mind is more of a lush image. I’ve always thought of it representing some sort of golden sunshiney day, over a forest near an urban area.

Or this.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a really charming song, even if it is bittersweet. It is also one of the few Radiohead songs you can put on repeat, because it doesn’t really develop so much as just play through.

The climbing persists.

Next is a version of Morning Bell, labeled Amnesiac. It’s better than the Kid A version that preceded it definitely, because it is a lot more ominous (Christ, I use that word a lot, don’t I?) and features some interesting ooooing synthesizers and bells that actually make the rhythm more refined. Anyone who knows the original version from Kid A knows that it is sort of a happy/sad type of song. Well, I think this version does a better job of making the more sad and dreary parts even more sad and dreary, and the happier parts happier. A good song, and it’s better here.

Dollars and Cents is a personal favorite. It has a lot of energy, and a lot of mystique. When you hear it, you may be reminded of Pyramid Song, for whatever reason. I sort of was. I couldn’t really figure out why this wasn’t named Pyramid Song. It sounds more like an eastern tune, and it is very reminiscent of the desert. Maybe not just the desert, but also other eastern nations such as China and Mongolia. The very echoey drums and warpy guitar along with the extremely powerful full orchestra sort of help that along. The explosion of energy later on is enough to even keep people who don’t like the rest of the song interested, and it’s worth the listen for them. It’s a very weird song, but I like it a lot.

Hunting Bears is also filler, but it’s better than Pull/Pulk. It’s really just a string of interesting guitar chords, and even though it doesn’t exactly go anywhere, it is pleasant enough. I don’t know what the deal is with all of the bears in the Kid A/Amnesiac marketing schemes, but they are interesting bears indeed. I draw them in math class sometimes. The little heads. I heard someone call them “citizen insanes” once. I think that is a B-Side on the Com Lag EP, but I don’t have it. If you have ever seen those little clips that advertised the albums when they came out, there was one called “Bear Witch Project” that was just creepy as hell. Try to find that somewhere.

Like Spinning Plates is also very interesting. It doesn’t make much sense at first. You have to listen to it more than once to really understand it even a little. I heard a live version where it was played on piano, but this is almost entirely synthesizers (if not entirely), so the production is kind of interesting. It still feels like you are climbing during this one, and at this point things are getting more strange, and you can feel the end of the climbing very near. Like this is the last leg of the journey. I almost want to call this filler too, but it is very interesting, almost too interesting to be filler.

But Life In A Glasshouse is a really good conclusion to the album. There is some silence, and it feels like you sort of float through an opening, into, well, either a Glasshouse or some big city somewhere at night, with all the hustle and bustle. Trumpets, a piano, and I think a clarinet play big rolls in this song. It’s very interesting, and very relaxing. It’s not a completely resolving song, but it at least makes you feel like the rest of the album really went somewhere. I can’t really say much more.

I once heard that Thom Yorke said this album was the parallel of Kid A. And on the cover art of Kid A, the volcano that you see is where Amnesiac takes place, while Kid A is more the spectator roll. I can see why, somehow. Both albums show a kind of journey, and even though Amnesiac shows it in a slightly weaker way, it is still a real keeper. Perhaps that mouse on the translucent plain looking at the big mountain can only wonder what he is missing out on, for better or worse.

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Radiohead – Kid A

May 25, 2006

With Kid A, Radiohead never truly intended to make anything resembling techno. At least it doesn’t seem like it. But their intent was to more make a work of art like their previous albums, but in a different more surreal way. OK Computer almost paved the road to Kid A, and it is easy to see that when you consider the electronic turn the music took at that point in their career. They still had beautiful melodies in the OK era, but they were seasoned with sparkling electronic soundscapes and bittersweet synthesizers. But Kid A was a full transformation. The album almost completely hinges on an electronic edge, and while the band almost entirely (temporarily, anyway) threw the brit-pop over their shoulder for this album, they still found themselves in a state of fame. Many critics were put off, but fans and casual listeners alike seemed to embrace the new style one way or another. This is an album where the band has no desire to please any critics or have any radio respect, and is more concentrated on just making good music that the fans will like, and trying something new in the process.

One disturbing fact about Kid A is that there are almost no drums. There are beats and rhythm, but more often than not, they are artificial and employed by the use of synthesizers and other strange instruments. Everything In It’s Right Place shows this early on. The title is not misleading, because this might be the most relaxing track on the album. The keyboard and synthesizers that dot the surreal song are extremely well placed, and the meticulous vocals and rhythm really get your ear into the right mood. And the lyrics are very easy too, and when listening to the song, it won’t be too uncommon to hear yourself saying “yesterday I WOKE UP SUCK ING ON LEM ON,” in accordance with Thom Yorkes strange vocals. Conversely, a great deal of the song is not in its right place. Thoms voice is played back, layered, warped, etc. Synthesizers float around. And the keyboards persist. Perhaps this is the bands message to the listener to let music come how it is, and accept the strange and different. And then we have a sort of filler track, but I hesitate to call it filler. It’s really not. It just sounds like it should be. You need to understand that this entire album is created meticulously to make the listener feel and think in certain directions. This is a very relaxing little tune, and is also made using some extreme precision. There are very soft chimes, synthesizers, bells, sound effects, etc that make up the song at first, and are then greeted by the drums (I don’t know if they are real or not. Don’t ask me), perhaps a friend that arrived fashionably late. The entire song puts images in my head that are kind of strange… One is the bedroom of a friend I had when I was a little kid, but that is kind of a strange thing to associate this with. I also picture animals and mythical creatures sort of marching through suburbia in the light of the moon. There are also vocals here, but they are warped beyond recognition. They do add to the strangeness.

But this album is extremely unpredictable, so there is little to no way for anyone to know that The National Anthem would come up. The National Anthem is not beautiful, it does not support your flag, and it is not “patriotic” in any way. Actually, this is the track that is notoriously known for being purposefully off-putting, but it is also a common favorite of fans. If you can somehow view the live version of this song that Radiohead performed on Saturday Night Live, I truly recommend you do, because it is one of the better live performances I have ever seen. There are definitely drums here, and the beat plays a significant role in the development of the song. The core of the song is the bassline though, an extremely off-beat and strange fast moving heart pumper. But then synthesizes jump in and Thoms Vocals work your brain into a corner. And there is nothing better than the horns coming it. It takes you by surprise. They are louder than the vocals, so they are more out front. And as if that weren’t enough, the horns start off going with the beat at least, and then they explode into their own things, and they don’t really make any sense. It takes a long time to truly appreciate this effect. Nothing has been more beautifully nonsensical in a long time. And then there is a hush, and the process repeats itself even more chaotically. And then it ends. There is no resolution at all.

And we are thrown into another completely unrelated emotion that works it’s magic just as well, How To Disappear Completely. This is hands down one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. There is an ominous inverted chord of noise in the background during the entire song, and it lingers there throughout. And the bassline is almost tragic it is so beautiful. The strums on the guitar are drifty, and Thoms vocals are in tip top shape. He gloomily sings about, well, disappearing, and even I almost wanted to cry the first time I heard it. And I can’t remember the last time I cried. Seriously, just listen to it. Synthesizers once again beautifully dot the song, and a great marching drumline comes in later. There is just so much detail going on in this song it’s amazing. There is even an orchestra, which crescendos to perfection, and imitates the haunting noise that you heard in the background in the very beginning, in all of it’s warped and sad glory. This might be the best song on the album, but it is very sad. But if any song can convince you that sad can be a good thing, this is it. The song ends with Thom Yorkes vocals literally melding into synthesizers and disappearing into the chords and music. It’s amazing. And by the end of all of that, you are in sort of a daze. You are depressed. And you might be shocked and impressed. And the transition into Treefingers is smooth. This is often regarded as the worst song on the album, but I would say it is not. Because it clearly succeeds in it’s goal. It is fully comprised of synthesizers, and there is no beat at all. And the swirls of synthesizers are also haunting, but full, and somehow satisfying. It’s kind of hard to explain. It is both sad and welcoming at the same time. You can almost hear the sparkling of the stars above as the trees blackened by the light on the horizon sway into night time. Welcoming you to stay. But there is a falling feeling. And it the track kind of swallows your ear and mind.

Optimistic is what catches you and reassures you that the band is still aware of the existence of major scales. The beat is almost tribal, and the song is once again so tightly constructed that it almost seems like a march. But during this march, you are still in some kind of trance. It is probably the exact opposite of the HTDC, and this is also another one of the more popular tracks that the album has to offer. It is very accessible, if nothing else because it is catchy and easy to hum. However, the music still has a bitter message to present. The words tell that the world is still the same way, and you kind of need to fight for your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness. It perfectly demonstrates Darwins theory about survival of the fittest. Anyway, the groove of the song is irresistible, and it’s a Radiohead classic. In Limbo is one of the weaker songs on the album, but it is still good. The song is extremely layered, and is actually slightly more reminiscent of the bands earlier sound in that it actually has guitars, but this one must have confused even hardcore Radiohead fans. The sound is still extremely detailed and exact, something that the listener has probably gotten used to by now. Your ears hardly have to do any work by this point in the album. The song sort of feels like it should trail from Optimistic, so there is no question why it actually does. But of course, the song ends on an extremely uncomfortable note, like most of the other songs do.

And we are launched into the song that might have prompted critics to label the entire album as techno, Idioteque. It is close to techno, as close as you will hear. But I hesitate to actually call it techno. It’s once again very exact, but this time less detailed, at least at first. The bass and the beat are both artificial, and complement each other very well. Synthesizers still wisp around creepily, and Thom Yorkes lyrics are literally haunting here. The image that I got into my head when I first heard this song even creeped me out. It was sort of a Titanic type ship, teetering on its edge. There are already hundreds of bodies in the water floating, and people are trying to escape on lifeboats, but people are dying for some reason even from just standing on the ship. The sky is ominous, the definition of the word. Millions of stars, millions of planets, millions of nebulas. Just a lot of big crap. Anyway, the song picks up with a more detailed beat later on, and Thoms voice is layered to the point where it is going in rounds, and notes from both are placed next to one another with sheer perfection. By the end of the song, the creeping has done its damage, and there are only those wispy synthesizers I mentioned remaining.

And they are in the beginning of Morning Bell, a debatable song. It’s got an easygoing pace, and you guessed it, some keyboards and synthesizers. But it is still the worst song on the album. I mean, without a doubt. I don’t think it’s bad. But the version of this song on Kid A’s sister album Amnesiac is better. The song just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. This was probably intentional though. Sometimes the song is littered with accidentals and an inverted major scale, but sometimes it is just flat out nice to listen to. Namely, later on when it gets more detailed and when Thom says “release me!” Its also purposefully off-putting, but this time not in such a great way.

The most beautiful part of this album is it’s conclusion, where the band almost seems like it is apologizing to you for putting you through what it did. There is a grand organ in the background chiming away beautiful chords, and Thom lets the listener know that even though things can look grim at times, there is still life, and there are always some good in things in life. And then the vocals and organ take an extremely beautiful turn. And then there is an explosion of slow gentle bass, swirling harps, and shiny pianos. And there are some other sound effects too. If this track wasn’t here, the album wouldn’t have amounted to anything. Very rarely does a song do the kind of work this does. But when you think it’s over, it’s not.

There is a long silence.

And then there is a final glorious stand of breathtaking measure, with pianos, harps, synthesizers, organs, and echo chamber played over the most beautiful cold, winter canyon of production.

And then there is more silence.

And then it is over.

While Kid A is not the best Radiohead album to date (OK Computer still holds that award, for me anyway), it is immensely provocative and extremely interesting. I think there are a lot of underlying meanings in the songs, especially how our kids are raised and how we live our life. But while OK Computer was more comfortable, Kid A is more straightforward and brutally honest. People usually lean towards either The Bends or Kid A, which OK Computer compromised between, but in my opinion, Kid A is the better album. You know what, if you are going to listen to it (you should) don’t think about it too much. Let it take you away. It’s definitely one of the best albums this century has seen thus far.

Also keep in mind that not all of my analyses will be like this. Sometimes I’ll just want to tell you what’s on my mind about an album, and sometimes I will post something outlining every song on the album, like this. And sometimes, I’ll pull something out from the Red archive that I wrote months or even years ago, and post it. It all depends on how I’m feeling. Also, if there is an album you really want me to review and you think that I have heard it, email me. It’s not like anyone ever really emails me anyway. But people have read some of these already and told me that they are very long and winded and unnecessarily drifty. I do ramble a lot, and I understand that this is a problem for some people. But I figure the more I ramble and free associate, the more interesting things will get, and the less I will seem like I’m just full of ****, and some dude who just wants attention and wants people to care about what he thinks. That’s not the case, I promise.