Tag Archives: radiohead

Acclaimed Albums – Kid A by Radiohead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 225/250Title: Kid A
Artist: Radiohead
Year: 2000
Position: #35

When this album first came out, I don’t think anyone would have expected it to become as acclaimed as it is now. Few publications championed it other than Pitchfork – who gave it a rare 10/10 – with many opting to completely trash it. Now, it is in the Top 50 of albums of all time. I know that time allows for re-evaluation, but this must be one of the most extreme pivots that I have seen on an album in my lifetime.

Me listening to it some 20 years later, now it has cemented itself as a classic and has been able to exert influence on music I know, is a profoundly different experience than what it would have been when the musical landscape at the turn of the millennium. Also helps that I know and love In Rainbows and A Moon Shaped Pool

Back in 2000, Kid A was inaccessible to a lot of listeners which was why it was trashed. Nowadays it is actually extremely accessible to newcomers and might actually be the first album of theirs to truly hit me hard on a first listen. I have not been able to stop listening to it, or at least some of the tracks, this last week.

This is the sort of album that scratches that same itch that Silent Shout by The Knife or Visions by Grimes does. This sort of dark distorted indie rock with veins of dance and electronica permeating – with the occasional lighter spot. Not traditional rock songs, but something more experimental, rewards multiple listens and would not be out of place at a silent disco.

Already ‘Idioteque’ and the title track have ended up as my most played tracks of the week and now I can already see other tracks are going to end up as favourites. This may end up being my favourite Radiohead album after a few more listens. Can’t wait to see what I think of the rest of their catalogue that I am yet to explore.

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In Review: Music Of 2016 (10-1)

Thanks for tuning in again. Yesterday I counted down my #20-11 albums of the year. Let’s finish off that countdown and see who ended up at #1.

#10 – Emotion: Side B by Carly Rae Jepsenemotion-side-b

This is an album of B-Sides and yet she is still able to give some of the best pop tracks of the year. Released on the anniversary of the parent album Emotion: Side B became a refuge for me in a year where pop music hasn’t been as strong.

Usually a collection like this feels a bit disjointed, but this very much feels like an album in its own right. The thread of 1980s electro-pop and dancing as your heard breaks or soars (depending on the song) permeates every moment.

This album ended up being the ultimate gift to her fiercely loyal fan base. With it she has become the Canadian Robyn… and that is not a title that should be given lightly.

Top Tracks: Cry, The One, Higher

#9 – Familia by Sophie Ellis-Bextorfamilia

When Sophie Ellis-Bextor released Wanderlust a few years back I was struck by the extreme left turn in her music. Gone were the glorious electro-pop days of Trip The Light Fantastic and here we were down something a lot more nuanced.

With Familia she is still on this road and vocally I don’t think she has ever sounded better. Both this and Wanderlust have allowed us to see her as the artist she is rather than the singer.

Nothing on this album quite hits the heights of “Love Is A Camera”, but as an album this feels more cohesive and consistent. She still lets her electronic side out (after all she is still Sophie Ellis-Bextor), but she couples this with some more Latin influences as well as a whole mess of other touchstones. Despite being a fan for nearly 15 years I don’t think I have ever found her music as interesting as I do now.

Top Tracks: Death of Love, Crystallise, Come With Us

#8 – A Moon Shaped Pool by Radioheadmoon-shaped-pool

It took until May before I felt I had heard the first great album of 2016. I have been a real latecomer to the music of Radiohead, but the more I listen to them the more of a fan I find myself becoming.

Since, like with In Rainbows, I was able to listen to A Moon Shaped Pool without any preconceptions from music critics all the discoveries I made about this album felt profoundly my own.

I think it has been agreed that A Moon Shaped Pool is one of the more accessible albums in the Radiohead back catalogue and that may be why I like it so much. It’s dark and dreamy in a way where I think the title of the album feels eerily accurate. For a perfect listen I think you need a few fireflies, but that might just be me.

Top Tracks: Ful Stop, Burn the Witch, Daydreaming

#7 – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Soundtrack by Crazy-Ex Girlfriend Castcrazy-ex-girlfriend

I don’t care if this feels like a cheat or not. Rachel Bloom and everyone else working on the Crazy Ex Girlfriend cast team are some of the most talented people working in television right now and it is just not getting the viewership it deserves.

I was listening and singing along to this soundtrack for about a month before I even started watching the show in September. I was sharing music videos and spreading the word of this amazing show based solely on YouTube playlists.

These songs aren’t just funny (some like ‘What’ll It Be’ and ‘Stupid Bitch’ actually make you want to cry). They are fantastically realised and performed of pastiche. The sources of inspiration have included the dream ballet from Oklahoma, 1980s hair rock, Shakira and the Dreamgirls soundtrack – and we are still part way through Season 2.

It’s on Netflix and the music can be found on YouTube and Spotify. spread the word!

Top Tracks: Feelin’ Kinda Naughty, I’m A Good Person, Greg’s Drinking Song

#6 Before The Dawn by Kate Bushbtd-rgb1

I cried when I was unable to get tickets to see Kate Bush live. The tickets sold out within 15 minutes and I had to watch as the 5-star reviews rolled in. Still there was consolation in knowing that a live album was going to eventually be released (sadly the DVD was scrapped).

Having a live album on this list isn’t too dissimilar to having a greatest hits, but it’s new arrangements and Kate Bush so sod it. This live album is amazing. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there, but this will do.

What makes this more than a greatest hits album… is that it isn’t your typical greatest hits. If anything it’s a live realisation of the two concept halves of Hounds of Love and Aerial and that’s what catapulted this right to the top end of my year-end charts.

Top Tracks: Sunset, Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), Lily

#5 – My Woman by Angel Olsenangel-olsen-my-woman

I missed the boat when Angel Olsen released Burn Your Fire For No Witness a few years back. So many people had that in their end of year list and I had not even heard of her. This year, with the release of My Woman I wanted to make sure I was there on the ground floor.

Like with Mitski’s album, this was a grower. The moment I finished the first playthrough I thought My Woman was okay, but I wanted to listen to it again straight away. So on some level I think it really must have struck me.

A few listens later and here it is at number 5 on my list, as well as placing high on many critics lists. Angel Olsen is still someone where I don’t know many people who listen to her, so whilst I am a bit late to the party it’s nice to feel like it’s still a select party.

Top Tracks: Shut Up Kiss Me, Sister, Heart Shaped Face

#4 Fantôme by Utada Hikarufantome

It has been a very long eight years since her last album, HEART STATION. Ever since I first discovered the wonders of JPop some 10-15 years ago she has been my unquestioned queen of the genre. For her to comeback with an album like this was more than I could have hoped for.

It’s very much a Utada Hikaru album and yet it is a real development from where she was before. Okay so I can’t understand what she is saying, but there is a greater confidence and maturity in what she has delivered. It is not the album made to appease fans after a long time and it’s not a throwback to what she used to be.

This might, in fact. be the best album she has done and I can only applaud her for that. Here’s hoping we get the next album in the near future.

Top Tracks: 桜流し, 道, 二時間だけのバカンス

#3 – case/lang/veirs by case/lang/veirscaselangveirs

A new release from Laura Veirs was always going to feature high on this list. Since coming across July Flame as a reviewer for a university news site I have been keeping a very close eye on her releases.

With this team up with kd lang and the amazing Neko Case there was only one way that this could go wrong: if one dominated the others. Thankfully that did not happen. Each singer has their fair share of leading tracks and then contribute backing vocals or other support on the remaining.

For a while it looked like this would have been my number one album of the year, but then second half of the year proved to be incredibly strong.

Top Tracks: Best Kept Secret, Greens of June, Blue Fires

#2 Blood Bitch by Jenny Hvala3923298497_10

I started making this list in November and have slowly watched Blood Bitch climbing up the ranks before popping a squat at number two. This is an album I have had a hard time recommending to people as the moment I say it is a Norwegian avant-grade pop concept album about vampires, menstruation and the moon… well you get the picture.

With the exception of the standout tracks listed below, this is an album where most songs cannot be played in isolation. They all bleed into each other and most tend to only make sense as part of a full playthrough (‘The Plague’ is one of these).

This is very much an album for the colder months, so makes a nice counterpoint to case/lang/veirs which dominated my early summer.

Top Tracks: The Great Undressing, Conceptual Romance, Secret Touch

#1 – 22, A Million by Bon Iver22-a-million

I don’t think anyone can be more surprised than me to have an album by a man top my list for the second year running (I’ve made these lists for the last 12 years and this is the second time that an album by a woman/women has not topped my list).

With the year that 2016 has been politically it feels like 22, A Million is exactly the sort of album you need to have to calm yourself down. Okay so it’s a glitchy folktronica album with song titles that upset the users of last.fm, but it’s beautifully honest.

You don’t always get what Justin Vernon is singing amongst the samples and the distortions. The thing is that it all just adds to the beautiful atmosphere and has made this album incredibly repeatable whether you are walking the streets of London, playing Skyrim or simply working in the office. Just gorgeous.

Top tracks: 8 (circle), 666 ʇ, 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄

Acclaimed Albums – In Rainbows by Radiohead

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 115/250Title: In Rainbows
Artist: Radiohead
Year: 2007
Position: #89

As of writing this Radiohead’s ninth album A Moon Shaped Pool has recently come out and I cannot stop listening to it. They have always been one of those bands that I meant to listen to more often and now they seem to have released the perfect gateway album for me. As such I have started listening to some of their other albums, and here we are.

Instead of continuing to go chronologically through their albums I decided to leapfrog over Kid A and go straight for In Rainbows instead as I actually know this album. In fact I got In Rainbows on the day it came out because they were doing the whole ‘pay what you want’ thing. Seeing how I just started university that week (and was nervous about the whole limited money thing) I paid £1.50 for it. I mean I could have gotten it for free, but that just didn’t feel cricket.

The problem with 17 year old university me and the release of In Rainbows was that I was at quite the right point in my musical development to properly appreciate it. I did, however, really fall for ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ and that is still my favourite song on the album.

Now that I have listened to a lot more of their music I understand more how unusual In Rainbows is when compared to the rest of their back catalogue. For one thing this is the album where it sounds like they are having the most fun. Similarly, In Rainbows feels a lot like an album that was made out of a jam session in the studio. I know that was very much not the case (some songs had been years in the making) but they somehow feel effortless and without pretence on this album.

It is nine years later (oh dear god) since I first got this album and I think that I am finally in a place musically where I can really appreciate it. No longer do I just dip in for ‘Weird Fishes’ and then move on out.  Now I make sure that I stick around for ‘House of Cards’ (I also love ’15 Step’, but that’s at the beginning of the album so no need to stick around for that one).

Seeing how I have already started to make a return to ‘Let Down’ from OK Computer as I finish this write up my prediction is that I will be crossing off Kid A very very soon.

Music Monday: Bending The Computer

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 11/250

So I have spent the last month floating around the earlier reaches of the acclaimed albums list with albums by the likes of Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan meaning it is time I travelled a bit forward in time. Looking through my iTunes and CDs I have noted there is a very large discrepancy in my stuff when it comes to the 1970s and the 1980s which I will deal with in the future.

For now I’ll go back to the 1990s and go for some music that I was way too young at the time to appreciate and grew to appreciate in more recent years. Another band with multiple albums and this post will look at the first two; let’s have some Radiohead.

Radiohead.bends.albumart Radiohead.okcomputer.albumart
Title: The Bends
Artist: Radiohead
Year: 1995
Position: #80 (previously #93)
Title: OK Computer
Artist: Radiohead
Year: 1997
Position: #12 (previously #13)

I think we can all agree, to start with, that it would be a tall order to ask a five year old boy to listen to Radiohead when the main music he was exposed to (to my knowledge) was a mixture of Enya and The Human League. To be honest it took until the release of In Rainbows that I properly gave Radiohead a go and, unlike most people, I went straight for The Bends rather than OK Computer.

Both of these albums are really strange to look back on since both The Bends and OK Computer were so universally lauded at the time. I remember as a seven year old that people were talking about OK Computer as an album that would be an all-time class and become truly influential in the future. I still have not seen an album be so decorated, or the critics be so correct. As a vehement and long-serving fan of Björk I still think that OK Computer somewhat overshadowed her magnum opus Homogenic to the point that despite universal acclaim it does not appear in the Top 250 (rather at 308 which is still impressive). Then again I am biased since that is one of my favourite albums of all time.

Anyway, musical grudges aside Radiohead is one of the view male-fronted acts that I enjoy and listen to in my own time (this is odd company they keep since it stands them alongside Beck, Sufjan Stevens and Of Montreal). Thing is I don’t know how to explain this without really retreading over what hundreds of reviews have said many, many times before.

I like listening to Radiohead for a number of reasons. They are able to jump between genres and fuse them together along the way. They combined alternative rock and electronica on OK Computer before it was a regularly done thing. When contemporary acts like Oasis and Blur were duking it out on the charts to become the dominant force in the emerging face of Britpop out comes The Bends completely out of left-field with little to no ego and a male singer who is not afraid to sing beautifully.

Thom Yorke’s high register and falsetto is what makes Radiohead’s songs (that are already melodic and well produced) a song by Radiohead. There is an emotive quality in his voice that many others like Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Keane’s Tom Chaplin have since tried to emulate but not quite get right.

Like most other people listing to these two albums I really rank ‘False Plastic Trees’ and ‘No Surprises’ as great songs… but above these I have to say my favourites are  ‘Sulk’ from The Bends and ‘Let Down’ from OK Computer.

‘Let Down’ hits home for me because of the walls of sound generated by the guitars (and some other instrument I have yet to work out) which is out of sync with each other, much like how the song is about being out of sync with the world around you. It’s a beautiful song and, personally, the best produced on the album because of the sheer number of layers with their various time signatures.

Then there is ‘Sulk’ which I like for a similar reason to ‘Let Down’ since it is one of the big production numbers on The Bends but in the end it comes down to the sweeping chorus and just the sheer depth of emotion in the lines “sometimes you sulk, sometimes you burn”. The fact that this is apparently a song that is absent from the Radiohead live sets just confuses me.