Review Summary: A modern classic and a must listen for everyone, not just Radiohead fans.
Over their long and celebrated career, Radiohead have had the impressive ability to constantly grow and change their sound. Some favor O.K. Computer and Kid A to be the pinnacles of Thom, Ed, Jonny, Phil, and Collin's work, but my personal favorite has always been In Rainbows. The songwriting runs the gauntlet from frantic to breathtakingly beautiful, and it comes together to become one of the most personal and introspective LP's the band has crafted.
The first sound you hear on In Rainbows' opener "15 Step" is a jarring drum machine hit, followed by an instantly addicting vocal melody courtesy of Mr. Yorke. Acoustic drums, jazzy guitar, and a searching bass line soon follow, culminating in an explosion of electronics, eerie keyboards, and strange loops. Then comes the frantic riffing of "Bodysnatchers," with Jonny and Thom's biting guitar leading the rest of the band through a few verses and choruses, until the pretty but still driving bridge hits out of nowhere, changing the vibe of the song momentarily until Jonny pulls out a quick solo and Thom yelling like a paranoid man surrounded by hostile delusions. The album proceeds to calm down a bit with "Nude." Laid back drums back up a bouncy bass line and spine tingling vocal melody. One of my personal highlights of the album is Thom's soaring note in the middle, which always gives me goosebumps. The tempo picks up a little again on "Weird Fishes" with its arpeggiated guitar and constant drum line. The song keeps a steady beat going until the bottom drops out, leaving only Thom's haunting voice and percussive keyboard. "All I Need" is by far the creepiest moment on the album, with its lonely lyrics and skeleton backing track. Another chilling moment is the mass of sound at the end, with the vocal moans and all encompassing program. The quirkiest moment is "Faust Arp," a quick acoustic diddy with strings that come in over the chorus that open up the claustrophobic feel of the verses. "Reckoner" is the strangest part on the album with a looping, reverberating drum part and jazzy guitar lines. Sweeping strings at the end accent Thom's piercing falsetto, eventually ending in a fadeout. "House of Cards" is a ballad and another favorite part on the album, with a catchy guitar riff and loving lyrics taking centerstage whith the rest of the band stays in the background while a steady drone takes up more and more of the sonic area. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place maniacally circles around its self, while the vocals get more and more intense. "Videotape" is my favorite song on the album, with the most introspective lyrics centering on Thom saying goodbye to his loved ones. The piano slowly builds while the bass enters and leaves under glitchy electronic drums. The album goes out in the perfect way, with a whimper as the piano slowy loops and fades out.
The production is simply amazing. Each of the instruments has its moment in the spotlight, and also its moments in the back. There are a plethora of sounds on each song, yet Thom's voice always cuts through the mix. It can be extremely dense and quiet one moment, then explode sonically the second.
This album is just a must listen, and even if you haven't enjoyed other stuff by them, there's likely something on In rainbows for you.