Posts Tagged ‘thom yorke’

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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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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.