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Approval 87%

Soundoffs 41
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Last Active 10-22-19 2:01 pm
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10.30.19 FILM: tectac's Darren Aronofsky, Ranked10.24.19 FILM: tectac's Top 10(0) Films of the D
10.17.19 MUSIC: tectac's Top 20 Metal Albums of 10.15.19 FILM: tectac's Gus Van Sant, Ranked
10.09.19 FILM: tectac's David Fincher, Ranked09.27.19 14 Years on Sput/mx: Top Albums of the
09.09.19 FILM: tectac's Christopher Nolan, Ranke08.28.19 FILM: tectac's Coen Brothers, Ranked
08.19.19 FILM: tectac's Krzysztof Kieslowski, Ra08.12.19 FILM: tectac's Paul Thomas Anderson, Ra
08.06.19 FILM: tectac's David Lynch, Ranked08.01.19 FILM: tectac's Wes Anderson, Ranked
07.30.19 FILM: tectac's Stanley Kubrick, Ranked07.27.19 FILM: tectac's Quentin Tarantino, Ranke
07.25.19 FILM: tectac's Top 50 Favorite Films of 07.10.19 MUSIC: tectac's Top 100 Radiohead Track
06.30.17 FILM: tectac's Top 30 Movies of the 21s 07.18.16 MUSIC: tectac's Top 25 Brand New Songs

MUSIC: tectac's Top 100 Radiohead Tracks

I have done this a few times in the past with a compiled list and had the grandiose idea of writing entries of several paragraphs for each song, but that has proven to be an arduous task among my hectic life. So, inspired by the format of SowingSeason's recently unveiled "Brand New Songs" list, I will be readjusting my project and merely writing up a short(er), single paragraph capsule for each song. Much more doable, and I think more people would be apt to read a small blurb versus a novel for one hundred various songs. I will probably unveil five songs per day, maybe more but we'll see. If this is stupid let me know and I'll stop.
In Rainbows


One of Radiohead's least cryptic songs, lyrically, and substantially more straightforward from a musical perspective, too. If nothing else, it proves that even a band as comparatively high-brow as Radiohead is capable of writing about deception and infidelity in the name of love. (Or lust?) Biggest complaint is that five-minutes is the wrong runtime for a song so mellow and settled-in; it lacks the variation necessary to sustain such a length, but I love the lounge-act feel and Thom's occasionally quivering voice. I do love the entire outro of the song, too; that repetition of, “Denial, denial,” with the soft overtone of, “Your ears should be burning,” elevates the song to another level. Thom’s final, fitting squeals at 4:36 slather icing on the cake.
8 Outtakes From Amnesiac


A song built on crescendos and a vibrant piano melody that doesn't sound particularly Radioheadesque (though at this point, what does Radiohead even "sound like" anyway?) but thrums with an unmistakable kineticism from start to finish. A song about the miserable acceptable of one's position and (lack of) purpose in this world and learning to merely blend in with our surroundings - "I will lead a wallpaper life" - that feels both coldly distant and intimately relatable. Haven't we all been in a similar place of such lethargy? Love the middle-section that sort of drones out into a muffled somnambulance as Thom chants, “Run until your lungs are sore, until you cannot feel it anymore,” once again capturing that spike of desperation in such an eloquent manner that, I think, is capable of speaking to all of us on some level. I can see why this was left off of AMNESIAC -- it simply wouldn't fit. But thankfully it saw the light of day eventually.
Hail to the Thief


Undoubtedly HAIL TO THE THIEF’s grooviest track, and arguable the grooviest track in Radiohead’s oeuvre (depending largely upon how exactly you define “groovy”); easy to thump along with, from the soupy opening bass riff to the staunch piano phrases. A very personal track for the band, as it serves somewhat as a rebuttal to a critical pan of an early-2000s hometown show where they performed their hearts out. (Given the location and that specific point in their timeline, the show obviously meant a lot to them.) Thom’s vocals adequately sear from a position of power: Such a toe-tapping, elegant way to tell your bullies to kindly fuck off.
Pablo Honey


What?! Creep!?! Already?!?!? This low?!?!?! *Sigh*, pitchforks down, please: Hear me out. Creep is a wonderful song. But to deny its acquired status - and I truly don’t mean this pejoratively - as the Radiohead song for non-Radiohead fans is simply naïve at this point. Q: “Hey, I like Creep, what other Radiohead songs would I like?” A: None, probably none. I’m being hyperbolic, of course, but diehard fans know what I’m getting at: Its alt-rock lionization has become something of a thorn in its side, despite the way it single-handedly turned Radiohead into a household name (which, I’m sure *they’ll* tell you, isn’t an inherently good thing). But all stigmas aside, it’s a great song for what it is - i.e., Early 90s British Alt-Rock - and it contains several of the seeds that would come to fruition much later in Radiohead’s career, most notably the themes of self-deprecation, inner-turmoil, and world-weary isolation. Definitely not a pick-me-up, but certainly a worthy track.
8 Outtakes From Amnesiac

>> FOG

A song that, upon the initial release of the AMNESIAC B-sides (ca. 2009… I think?), I made the grave mistake of dismissing - alongside Trans-Atlantic Drawl, Fast-Track, and Kinetic - as much appreciated but ultimately unsustainable white noise. Not sure how Fog got lumped in that group, honestly, but I’m glad I came to my senses. And not only have I reassessed my wrongheaded dismissal, but I’m also a little shocked this didn’t make the final AMNESIAC tracklist. I think it’s extremely well-suited to the albums overall sensibilities, taking the muffled ambiance of Worrywort (another B-side I adore) and stripping away the loftiness, lending it a sharped edge but allowing it to maintain its Kafkaesque complexion. Love the build up of foggy (no pun intended) tumult as elements come trickling in: Stand-up bass, piercing synth, jangly tambourines, off-beat snare hits, strained guitar licks. It’s an ostensible cacophony, but repeated listens reveal the harmony, however unorthodox.
Pablo Honey


The single best embodiment of the sliver of Brit-pop sensibility that Radiohead once had, mixed with just enough of their punctual grunge and rawness to let it rise above the sinew. (Hell, with a few upgrades in sound quality, this would feel right at home on “The Bends”.) Shocked this never wound up a “Pablo Honey” single, honestly: It’s accessible, it’s an effortless listen, it’s catchy enough to appeal to casual radio listeners while maintaining a lowkey sordid bite, softening the blow somewhat for those too proud to admit they’ve been caught singing pop hits aloud. The instrumentation is undecorated and putatively “simple” compared to almost anything thereafter, but sometimes there’s a specific allure to simplicity that rejuvenates like a palate cleanser after several hours of listening to layered synth tracks and mathematically coerced time signatures. A step back in technique, but not necessary talent.
Hail to the Thief


There was a time when I hated this song with every fiber of my being. Absolutely loathed it, repulsed by it after my first spin of “Hail to the Thief” back in 2003. What the hell was this AMNESIAC-lite bullshit? How dare they preface a song as great as “There, There” with this aural abomination? Luckily, first impressions of Radiohead songs rarely end up being lasting ones, and since that initial listen I’ve completely about-faced on “The Gloaming”—it used to trip my gag reflex, but now I actively enjoy it. The reason I’ll never consider it a masterpiece, though, is that it still feels and sounds very interlude-y to me, like an overextended riff that, at its core, is only a small step above tracks like “Treefingers” and “Fitter Happier” w.r.t. purpose and construction. I’m also not sure HAIL TO THE THIEF was the correct album for “The Gloaming,” as I find my self listening to it out of context quite often. In that sense, however, I wish there were more of it.
OK Computer


A slight departure from the rest of “OK Computer”—almost like the proportional inverse of “Electioneering” in that sense—re its dialed back, meditative, and melodramatic timbre. So here’s me, sheepishly admitting that this is my least favorite track from the album, “Fitter Happier” notwithstanding. That’s not to say I don’t like it, though; In fact, I think its thematic tie-in with the album’s opening track (“Airbag”) is brilliant, and by concluding with what seems more like a preamble, it gives “OK Computer” an untouchable sense of circularity: The album that never ends! Not only does it ricochet off of Thom’s candid fear of automobiles (see also: “Killer Cars” and “Stupid Car”), it works on a parabolic level, too: It’s about cars, sure, but it’s also about “slowing down” figuratively, taking the time to enjoy the things around you, stopping to breathe in every now and again. Its relevance has only grown since 1997.
The King of Limbs


If I had to sum up THE KING OF LIMBS to any unknowing person with a single song, it’d be this one. It’s not the album’s best by a stretch, but it’s the most representative, I think, of the overall deviation from Radiohead’s previous work. It functions kind of like “Kid A” on KID A—a succinct summation of what you can and should expect; an amalgam of cherrypicked elements from the rest of the album’s tracks. That said, it’s still a fickle little thing: It’s hypnotic, but not particularly “catchy,” and its initially buoyant appearance promises an eventual vigor that never gets delivered. But once you accept the fact that it’s not “that kind” of song, it becomes easier to relish in its ethereal vibes: The chirping wildlife, the mega-clean acoustics, the percussive taps on the body of the guitar, and Thom’s looped crooning. Subject matter is objectively bleak, yet its painted with a color that engenders beauty and solace. Haunting, eerie, and gorgeous.
In Rainbows Disk 2


A favorite B-side among diehard fans, and I swear I like it, too! Though I’ve been mildly (mildly!) soured on it since hearing the “Live from the Basement” rendition, which is mind-blowingly good. So good, in fact, that it makes the IN RAINBOWS: DISC 2 version feel inadequate in more than a few ways. (And since I’m ranking based solely on album releases, well…) But don’t get it twisted: This song deserved a spot on the IN RAINBOWS track list. Not to perpetuate the bashing of “Faust Arp”—every Radiohead fan’s favorite pastime—but imagine “Go Slowly” dwindling down with Thom’s fading quavering alongside that acoustic guitar lick and suddenly BAM! You’re launched into the opening drum beat of “Reckoner.” (Sigh, what could have been and never will be.) It’s a celestial song that possesses a starry grace that sounds like a direct personification of how the IN RAINBOWS cover art looks. (It also heavily resembles “There There” poured through molasses.) Abstract greatness.


This is the type of song I’d conjure up in my head if you theoretically asked me to toss two parts R.E.M., two parts Oasis, and one part Talking Heads into a blender and hit frappé. One of their more accessible tracks: It takes a lot of the rough edges of even the most user-friendly “Pablo Honey” / “The Bends” songs and smooths ‘em out a little. There’s simply nothing here I could identify as potentially off-putting, almost objectively so. (Unless early-90s alt/pop-rock just isn’t your thing then okay sure.) In that sense, it might be the “least-Radiohead” Radiohead song we currently have, but that simply showcases how wide their musical spectrum actually spans. Who’da thought they could do radio-friendl, jangle-pop / alt-rock hybrids so well? A nice inclusion into Thom’s motorphobia portfolio, and easily the most straightforward of the lot: “I’m going out for a little drive and it could be the last time you see me alive, there could be an idiot on the road.”
OKNOTOK 1997-2017


True story: Upon hearing this for the first time, my initial thought was that it sounded very “James Bond-y,” without the foreknowledge that the band shared this sentiment, nor realizing it preceded “Spectre” as Radiohead’s submission for the title track of the film with the same name. Not trying to claim stake to some groundbreaking discovery, merely pointing out the fact that the spy-thriller vibes are undeniable. Just bask in that opening, piercing synth phrase; it feels transcribed directly from the lost pages of “Diamonds are Forever.” Leering, deliberate moodiness is inherent to the espionage genre, and throwing the band’s overarching cynicism into the mix only emphasizes the macabre overtones. The spiritual lovechild of “Karma Police” and “Climbing Up the Walls,” yoked between the measured elegance of the former and the sinister emanation of the latter. Thom himself describe this track as “melodramatic,” but I’d consider it more like composed distress.
Go to Sleep


Starts off like a Rolling Stones b-side crosspollinated with something you’d hear in one of Quentin Tarantino’s non-Westerns. Whatever crazy hybridization I come up with, the important takeaway is: I really dig this track. I used to think it needed to “go somewhere,” either louder or heavier, or that it needed a more recognizable hook, but I’ve since rectified my misjudgments (per usual) and now adore the song’s bare-faced structure i.e., the attribute that makes it instantly accessible along with the crisp tonal clarity. It’s a blues song, plain and simple, but it’s a *Radiohead* blues song. (It has a harmonica for Christ’s sake!) Perhaps this never made it onto HAIL TO THE THIEF because Thom found it too conventional, or lacking complexity. But gobsmacking your listeners with *this* directly after e.g. “Myxomatosis” or “The Gloaming” sounds exactly like the kind of aural vertical that Radiohead would endorse. But who knows.
In Rainbows Disk 2


I hate to keep making direct comparisons to other bands/albums because it comes off somewhat reductive of Radiohead’s creative prowess, but I promise I never make these parallels with intent to deflate. That said, this has SGT. PEPPERS LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND written all over it, and I have to give it to my guys: They do “trippy mid-era Beatles” exceptionally well. (I wonder what Radiohead’s alter-ego group would be named?) Angelic waxing and fuzzy feedback directly transitions into a phrase of billowy bass, flanged guitar, and distance ooh-ing and aah-ing, all propped up against a percussive shell that rarely ventures beyond a clanking tambourine. (Sorry, Ringo.) A great juxtaposition between dark, nearly morbid lyrical subject matter and fragrant, upbeat music—a comingling that Radiohead has mastered time and time again. It’s a very pared-down track, but I can be a purist, too, and sometimes its better to omit elements than needlessly bungle them.
A Moon Shaped Pool


The first AMSP song we’ve encountered, but mega-fans don’t fret because [spoiler alert], it’s the only album in which every song appears on this list. So, by definition, yes, this is my “least favorite” AMSP track, but don’t think of it that way. Think of it as my 86th-favorite Radiohead track (a statement that’s more affirmative than it sounds, I assure you). Suffers just a *tad* from the same symptoms as “The Gloaming” i.e., it works well in the context of the album, but therein it serves as an extended interlude and, as a result, suffers a bit when evaluated as a standalone track. But AMSP would still feel incomplete without it, no doubt. It’s entirely orchestral as far as I can tell (and I often forget there’s absolutely no percussion involved), showcasing Jonny’s adeptness. (You swear he’d been writing movements since he emerged from the womb.) A great track, assuredly, and its bottom rung placement among A MOON SHAPED POOL shouldn’t be viewed as a slight.
Supercollider/The Butcher


At some point not long after its release, you’d have found “Supercollider” sitting comfortably among my Radiohead Top 10. (Probably.) I listened to it daily, oftentimes back-to-back in rapid succession; not sure if I was genuinely infatuated with it, or merely thirsting for something “different” to assuage my initially tepid feelings on THE KING OF LIMBS, but as you can see here, I’ve significantly cooled on it over the years. Moreover, I’ve come to the realization that it never needed to be seven minutes long. I’m imagining a truncated, four-minute version in my head that feels tighter, hitting the same highs while never threatening with tedium. Don’t get it twisted: It’s an absolutely great seven-minute track. But it could’ve been a four-minute masterwork. And I can see why it was left off TKOL: It doesn’t quite fit the albums two major timbres of [1] atmospheric sensory explosion or [2] strangely pared-down and reserved. (P.S. I love the faint piano at 4:10.)
Pablo Honey


Whenever Radiohead diehards are discussing PABLO HONEY and which tracks they find salvageable, you tend to see “Creep,” “Blowout,” and “You,” with occasional spicy picks like “Lurgee” or “Vegetable.” I don’t think I’ve ever caught wind of any love for “Stop Whispering,” though, which makes me sad. I can vividly remember the first time heard it and, knowing it was from The Album That Must Not Be Named thought quizzically to myself: “This is… kinda good?” To my mind, it’s the most mature precursor of the “continuous build-up” song structure that Radiohead would whet and perfect on future records (think “Exit Music,” “Ful Stop,” “The National Anthem,” or “You and Whose Army”). And yes, those songs are all far better than this one, but the blueprints are right here! I make no apologies for loving the brushed snare, the clear guitar licks, and the way Thom strains during the final chorus on the track, shouting at the top of his lungs. A beautiful disaster.
Hail to the Thief


Relentless kineticism, a song that remains constantly in motion: Colin’s ripping bassline is the lifeblood that keeps everything moving and the anxiously rolling drum beat erects a frame upon which everything else is eerily draped. (There’s a single instance where the bass drops out at 2:39 and it emulates the feeling you’d get if your heart momentarily stopped beating: Its absence is truly felt, and its reentry is a relief.) Sufficiently tinted in darkness from a tonal perspective without devolving into purely sad-sack or doom-and-gloom territory, balanced nicely by the subtly uplifting undertones of the music’s dynamic nature. Kinda spacy, kinda creepy, but sand-blasted with vibrant edges and orbiting a rock-steady center of gravity: If there’s one thing you praise “Where I End and You Begin” for, let it be its equipoise. Lastly: This song has never felt four-and-a-half minutes long to me. One of those that comes and goes in seemingly half the time.
The Bends


During my last (half-assed) iteration of this list over a year ago, “(Nice Dream)” didn’t make the cut, and now I’m wondering if it was a glaring oversight, or if I legitimately didn’t think it was one of Radiohead’s hundred-finest songs at the time. I’m guessing the former, because I can’t imagine the notion there are one hundred Radiohead songs *better* than this. A good example - among many others to come - of Radiohead’s ability to personify a song title or theme with the aura conjured up through the music itself. Saying “(Nice Dream)” sounds “dreamy” would be pat, but not entirely untrue. The eminent calmness and quietude washes over you with a trancelike grace while the lyricism is devilishly subverted, detailing that a life of happiness and security is nothing more than a farce. (Isn’t that what dreams are for, anyway?) Not the last time Radiohead would masterfully disguise bleak content with inversely effervescent melodies. (The violin in Verse #2 is love.)
A Moon Shaped Pool


I think if you asked one hundred people to rank the tracks off AMSP, this’d be the cumulative last place choice. So why, you may ask, do I personally think it’s superior (even if infinitesimally so) to “Glass Eyes?” Short answer: It feels more definable and “complete” as a song; a strong standalone entity when removed from the context of the album. That response will surely leave some people unsatiated because, objectively, “Desert Island Disk” is one of AMSP’s least complex songs w.r.t. structure and depth of textures. But this is a case where much of my affinity stems from the lyrics, which are drastically under-appreciated. They rank among the most deeply affecting in Radiohead’s entire catalog, imo. In my estimation, they detail not just the heartache of a split with someone you once cared about, but the feeling of rejuvenation and new beginnings. They represent the idea that change for the better is always possible, even in an unlikely environment.
OK Computer


As high as place #48 on some past iteration of this list, its yet another song in which the excitement it used to bring me has simply waned with time. But my feelings aren’t so much extinguished as they are reformed: This is what I’d consider the Ol’ Reliable of “OK Computer,” the song that might not go-for-broke, but hums like a well-oiled machine and never makes a misstep. The opening, phased guitar riff is nearly iconic at this point, lending to the overarching superlunary vibes and it has always begged the question (from me, anyway): What *would* an alien from another planet think of Earth if they decided to land here one day? It’s a song of cultural introspection, a denouement on our uptightness as well as an ode of frustration and wanting to break free from the monotony of the world we’ve grown accustomed to. In that way, it’s almost a spiritual precursor to “No Surprises.”
COM LAG (2plus2isfive)


Another track whose exclusion from HAIL TO THE THIEF proper has me salty even after all these years. And yeah sure, maybe it sounds slightly more AMNESIAC-ish, but there’s no way a song that thumps this hard doesn’t make the final cut. While Colin’s busy going H.A.M. on the bassline, the strained string sections instill a noir-esque temperament, the sample of random, clanking percussion just looping in the background, having a swell time. I suppose you could apply my previous nitpicks about “The Gloaming” and “Glass Eyes” here: This is *almost* more of a glorified bridge than a complete song, but honestly who cares at this point. The way Thom’s nasally voice omnipotently reverbs as he sings, “It was nice when it lasted but now it’s gone” is exactly the type of shit that gives me inexplicable chills. Honestly I’ve probably underrated this, but the list is finished and I promised myself no last-minute changes.
In Rainbows Disk 2


Stupid title - though a mighty fine dish, which makes for a fine pairing with bubble & squeak - but whew! This thing is an adrenaline shot straight to the heart à la Pulp Fiction’s overdosing sequence, wasting absolutely no time with foreplay and getting straight to a hardcore romp in the sack. Grungy, heavily distorted guitars seep through a cleverly layered dual drum track, Colin’s bass ensuring you “feel” the song instead of merely “hearing” it. It’s got the start-and-stop buoyancy of a Talking Heads tune, eclectic bass riffs like an early Red Hot Chili Peppers jam, and highly-modulated guitar phrases that hint at pre-2000 Incubus. Lots going on here, but it never gets messy or cacophonous, it just brims with the energy that was leftover from “Electioneering” and rides it until nothing but fumes are left. I always try my hardest not to embarrassingly sing alone to Thom’s shouts of “I got the poison!” but I usually fail miserably. Such is life.
The King of Limbs


Another entry I’ll likely take heat for, but find solace in the fact that my previous revision of this list didn’t have “Bloom” *at all*, and that was even before the release of A MOON SHAPED POOL. It took me a while to warm up to it - longer than any other Radiohead track, maybe - but now I appreciate it for the modulated tone-setter it truly is: Could there possibly be a more befitting introduction for an album as oneiric as THE KING OF LIMBS? My previous distaste stemmed from the track’s lack of structure and droning qualities, but when you step back and look at TKOL, that’s kinda how *every* track is, and perhaps this warbled, cyclic intonation is the encompassing theme of the album. What once bored me now holds me mesmerized, captivated by sounds I barely recognize, and there might be no other Radiohead track that can hold me under a sustained trance quite like this one. “A giant turtle’s eyes / Jellyfish swim by.” Yes, indeed they do.


The eminent sleeper of AMNESIAC, a track that doesn’t garner much attention (on an album that often gets buried at the bottom of Radiohead’s canon, no less) but encompasses the milieu of that specific time and place in the band’s career so well. You know, that kind of longey, spaced-out, quasi-jazz-influenced brand of postmodern alt-rock. It’s actually a brilliant segue between KID A and AMNESIAC (despite the two albums being conceived at/around the same time), capturing the rhythmic, subdued, and slightly chilling pitch of the latter while lingering with just a dash of that electronic aura of the former, existing neatly in the Venn diagram overlap. (Plus, if “Man of War” didn’t exist, this should’ve been Radiohead’s next pick for James Bond theme music.) I’ve always thought of this as the twin brother of “Knives Out,” only with a darker and more incognito form. That jazzy breakdown at 2:25 is the bee’s knees, too: That ride cymbal, my word!
Hail to the Thief


It’s rare we get to see the squishier, more sentimental side of Radiohead, and songs like this only make me yearn for more of it. An elegant soliloquy from Thom to his (at the time) baby boy, Noah. “Maybe you’ll be president but know right from wrong / Or in the flood you’ll build an ark and sail us to the moon.” There’s something patently arresting when an emotional clam opens up and spills his or her guts, and despite the track’s somber sounding body, the lyrics put a sobering spin of hopefulness on the entire thing. I hear Nick Mason on the drums and maybe a touch of Joe Perry on the guitar; a relaxing song, as it should be, and it serves as a fantastic come-down after the bangarang outro of “Sit Down, Stand Up” in the context of HAIL TO THE THIEF. I wasn’t a huge fan after my first-ever listen - many, many moons ago - but since that time, “Sail to the Moon” and its barebacked beauty has sunk its roots deep into my subconscious.
In Rainbows


This is like the “Electioneering” of IN RAINBOWS. I don’t mean that pejoratively at all, but it’s such a harsh step up in both pace and aggression from the rest of the album that even diehards are bound to initially wince (casuals don’t stand a chance). Especially being the predecessor to “Nude,” you might think you’re hearing songs from two different albums if you know any better. But in a way, I kind of *like* the jarring nature of “Bodysnatchers” and how it adds a wallop of variety to the front-half of the album without jamming the gears too much. (“Bodysnatchers” followed by “Nude” is the aural equivalent of rough, primal sex epilogued with a nice cuddle session afterwards.) And truthfully, it’s not *that* intense of a song, it just feels particularly elevated when the surrounding nine tracks are infinitely more mellowed out. But if Radiohead’s great at something, it’s disrupting any and all expectations: Here’s yet another example of that.
The Bends


You hear that? That’s the collective groan of every Radiohead fan reading this list and learning the “Sulk” has ranked above the likes of “Bloom,” “Glass Eyes,” “The Tourist,” or [literally any other song that’s already been listed]. For some reason that’s completely eluded me from the day I started listening to this band, “Sulk” seems to be the single most-hated track Radiohead has ever produced. And I just don’t get it. (Shit, even Thom & Co. have publicly stated their disdain for it.) To my mind, it’s easily one of the most accessible songs from THE BENDS; catchy but not melodramatic, simple but not vacuous, tranquil but not timid. Just *thinking* about the way Thom belts out the final chorus - specifically the way he elevates his voice halfway through the word “soul” - is giving me full-body chills. It’s not as bold or daring or progressive or technically adept as almost anything thereafter, but so what? This is goddamn great mellow rock, haters can hate all they want.
In Rainbows Disk 2


I’ve always wondered if there’s legitimate science behind humankind’s interpretation of major keys (in music) bright and uplifting and minor keys as sullen and gloomy, or if it’s just a result of years and years of conditioning, something ingrained centuries ago when Bachs and Beethovens were running amok. In any case, Radiohead uses that dichotomy to create a track with two distinct moods. The verses, which make up the sulky, substantially darker parts of the song, follow a scheme of F-minor, G-minor, A-minor. Transitions to each miniature refrain, however, moves from that A-minor to a C-major and alas! The entire atmosphere of the song shifts from a downtrodden despondency to a bereft optimism. I must assume it’s no coincidence, then, that the word Thom’s crooning during this transience is “relief,” as if to underscore the brief lapse of darkness brought on by the major chord. Such is the variety of life; without the bad times, would we recognize the good ones?
Hail to the Thief


Everyone’s favorite Radiohead song to shit on since “Sulk,” and while that’s obviously not my scene, I can at least see why this wouldn’t be to someone’s taste. It’s slow, it’s creepy, it’s a little repetitive, it’s a tad long. Whereas a majority would use those adjectives slanderously, those are exactly the things I *like* about this track, forming a treacherous bridge between “Where I End” and “The Gloaming.” There’s a brooding to “We Suck Young Blood” that haunts my psyche, from the eerie and staunch piano to what might be the slowest cadence of hand claps to ever have been recorded in rock music. (The way they seem purposely mistimed - only very slightly - only adds to the mood.) Thom’s strained vocals are perfectly attuned to the ambiance, spewing rhetoric about the culture of models, used up while they’re young only to be replaced by newer, fresher, and more obedient slabs of meat. Haunting. That compositional breakdown at 2:57 is fucking riveting.
OK Computer


The most chastised track from OK COMPUTER. People will tell you “it doesn’t belong” or “it doesn’t mesh with the rest of the album,” sentiments with which I respectfully disagree. People tend to mistake variance for ill-fittedness, completely overlooking the purpose of the song from a larger perspective. OK COMPUTER needed this livewire jolt of energy: After six tracks of germinated alt-rock brilliance followed by the droning intermission of “Fitter Happier,” Thom and crew decide to kick us in the teeth, peppering our anuses in preparation for the more tonally skewed second (slightly-less-than) half of the album. It’s like you’ve just started to come down and the band jabs a needle in your arm and dip the plunger—“not so fucking fast.” The song’s most brilliant moment is around 1:04 as Thom begins wailing “when I go forwards, you go backwards.” If you listen, you’ll hear a staccato guitar lick that start high and work their way down. “And somewhere we will meet.”
The Bends


Is my credibility gone yet? Great song, obviously, but I don’t think it’s one of Radiohead’s absolute best (nor do I think it’s even one the top three songs from THE BENDS). It’s one of the band’s more formulaic songs (and I don’t mean that negatively), starting with what might lay claim to their most identifiable opening guitar lick, arpeggiated and slightly phased. It’s the album’s finale, and perhaps the bleakest closer they’ve released have to date (and they have some bleak closers); somberness meshing with angst, depression, and anger, entrenched by an overarching feeling of solitude. It is a draining song, one that sucks you into its collective anguish, a black hole from which there is no escape. Even Thom himself has said, “Street Spirit has no resolve. It’s a dark tunnel without the light at the end.” Though maybe—just *maybe*—there’s an infinitesimal shimmer of hope in the final line: “Immerse your soul in love.” You can decide for yourself.


The opening track of any album should serve as a sort of lubricant for what’s to come, setting the tone and establishing a baseline to which you can properly acclimate your senses. If “Packt Like Sardines” isn’t the most fitting prologue for AMNESIAC, then I don’t know what is. Incessant, tinny percussion and electronic drum patterns; rich and submerged synthesizer strokes; muffled, sublimely understated vocals, “After years of waiting, nothing came / And you realize you’re looking in the wrong place.” New waves of sounds and nearly unidentifiable instruments waft in and out; unseasoned ears might cite a case of aural diarrhea, but part of the charm is the cornucopia of sound that violently bustles through your head, and it’s really the best form of mental preparedness you could hope for with an album of such glamorous eccentricity. Schizophrenic and dissonant in the best ways possible: “I’m a reasonable man, get off my case.”
The Daily Mail/Staircase


Clearly cut from the same cloth as THE KING OF LIMBS, “Staircase” is driven by atmosphere and texture, the coalescence of all the instruments to form an encompassing climate rather than one built piece by piece. (Even the more instrumentally delineated Radiohead tracks have layers upon layers, but the TKOL era is really where they started blurring the defining lines between those layers to create heaping, homogenous resonances.) Not a ton of excess modulation here, but enough variation between the minutiae to stave off tedium and keep things fresh without foregoing the elevated droning effect brought on by the perpetual background looping. Most interesting to me is the line at 2:23—is Thom singing “out of orbit,” or “I have always?” I can hear both, and apparently the closed captioning for TKOL: Live from the Basement reads the former. Part of me thinks it might be an intentional mondegreen, because what a great cliffhanger the latter imposes: “…and I always will.”
8 Outtakes From Amnesiac


My wife would say, “Oh the one that sounds like a video game?” Poor thing. But that’s honestly not a wrongheaded observation; there’s something about the melodic throughline that sounds like it would fit snugly into an 8-bit arcade soundtrack. (Try to imagine if Pac-Man had an underwater level; some weird amalgam of Atari and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.) What I find truly fascinating is that over 90% of the “percussion” here is human beatboxing, giving the song a rhythmic structure while maintaining a tender degree of softness that’s simply not achievable with a modern drum set. “Worrywort” is a lozenge for your mind, a song that just kind of melts and seeps it way through the cracks in your right-brain, effortlessly and clandestinely. It also contains one the most tender and hopeful lines ever conceived by Thom? “There’s no use dwelling on, on what might have been / Just think of all the fun you could be having / It’s such a beautiful day.” Be still my heart.
Pablo Honey

>> I CAN’T

Looking ahead, you’ll notice this is the last PABLO HONEY entry which mean: No “You,” no “Vegetable,” no “Lurgee” and [gasp!] that’s right, no “Blow Out.” Above all, it means that “I Can’t” is, to me, PABLO HONEY’s crowning achievement, and the apex of Radiohead’s pre-BENDS talent. And as defensible as I’m prepared to get, every time I listen to this song I wonder why I’d even have to be. Maybe Brit-and/or-early-90s alt/pop-rock is your kryptonite, in which case there’s no convincing you. But how can any open-minded person hear “I Can’t” and not immediately latch onto something? The approachability, the mellow groove, the fuzzy enamel, and my god—the simplest yet most instantly alluring hook/chorus they’ve ever assembled? If you can sincerely listen to this and somehow *not* sing-along with “Even though I might, even though I try / I can’t,” you should schedule an appointment with your cardiologist ASAP: There’s a dead, ossified clump of mass where your heart should be.
A Moon Shaped Pool (Special Edition)


In making this list, I was flipping and flopping entries up until the very last moment, after which I told myself it was “solidified” and, no matter what, couldn’t be changed again, lest I remain perpetually discontent with the order and forever incapable of publishing it. Truth is, though, the “fine tuning” never stops, and this year the Most Regretful Placement award goes to “Spectre.” It deserves a higher spot than sixty-four; even as I’m listening to it now, I’m balking at how I ever accepted a spot somewhere outside the Top Fifty even. But hey: You live, you learn, and you can bet this’ll climb on my next iteration of this god forsaken list. Radiohead was born to write this song, it bleeds with a stratosphere of sexy mystique and level-headed charisma, and it prevails even when removed from the context of “James Bond theme song.” It’s so goddamn sleek and polished, a dazzling mélange of A MOON SHAPED POOL’s orchestration and IN RAINBOWS’s aerial luster. Sublime.
The Daily Mail/Staircase


“The Daily Mail” is the supermodel who removes her makeup and is even prettier without it; significantly more stripped down than a majority of post-BENDS Radiohead songs, a feeling only exacerbated by its release following THE KING OF LIMBS. Piano. Vocals. Some light percussion. Brass instruments. Woodwinds. After such a largely synthetic release (and no, that’s not inherently a knock against TKOL), it was refreshing to see Radiohead take a step back and meddle in the fundamentals once again. Again with the comparisons, this is how I’d imagine a contemporary, late-era Beatles track might sound, somewhere halfway between THE WHITE ALBUM and LET IT BE. I swear I can even hear a bit of Ringo in there as the drums come bopping in. (When the whole band joins around 2:07, it sounds magnificently ABBEY ROAD-ish, and I fucking love it.) I’m upset this never made a full album cut for the fact that more people need to hear it, though I think it’s gained some steam recently.
The King of Limbs


Nope, that’s not a typo. You’re reading it correctly: “Feral.” I seem to have a strange fetishization for each album’s agreed upon black sheep, and “Feral” might be my most personally cherished of them all. Firstly: Let’s not lump this into the same category as “Treefingers” or “Fitter Happier” simply because it’s largely instrumental. This song is entirely different for the fact that it doesn’t serve as any kind of interlude for the album proper. If anything, it more closely shadows “Kid A” viz., an experimental noisescape that cherry-picks various elements from each track on the album to form a sort of small-scale, concentrated summation. Sure, you might not explicitly pick up hints of “Codex” or “Give Up the Ghost” from listening to “Feral,” but its function as an all-around sensory anthem for THE KING OF LIMBS is important and undeniable, and I’m convinced that “Feral” detractors have simply yet to blast the song on their car stereo until the doors are audibly shaking.
A Moon Shaped Pool


When a song like “Identikit” ranks among the bottom-three tracks on an album, that should speak tremendous volumes about its greatness in total. (Spoiler alert: A MOON SHAPED POOL is fucking amazing. But you knew that already.) Making live, unnamed appearances as early as 2012, an outspoken group of people were disappointed with the recorded album version (myself *somewhat* included…only somewhat, though), saying it was, in comparison to the live renditions, too tame, too lax, too apathetic. But as the months (and, eventually, years) passed, I settled into its groove and came to appreciate its juxtaposed restraint. It borders on dawdling, right from the opening congregation of instruments haphazardly trying to form a timely melody, but, perhaps paradoxically, its languor is its greatest strength, slithering along without the orchestral ornamentation that decorates *most* of A MOON SHAPED POOL, and carves out a niche for itself anyway. Broken hearts, make it rain!
Hail to the Thief


Though HAIL TO THE THIEF is a heavily political and government-centric album, I’ve always pulled an allusion to Christianity from this song (or religion in general, I guess), with the title referring to the constant sitting, standing, and genuflection that symbolically recurs ad infinitum during a traditional Catholic mass. (Makes sense, too, that the “jaws of hell” are specifically namedropped.) In any case, the robotic droning of Thom’s voice pairs frighteningly well with the accompanying music’s sense of dramatic energy, bordering on operatic but maintaining a sense of anxiousness that could only be harvested from the band’s mild post-rock influences. Can’t exactly explain the “raindrops” x42 (or however many times Thom actually repeats it), but the kinetic explosion of surrounding noise during the final minute of the song is contagious under any interpretation, and a sharp conclusion to the doom-and-gloom elicited from the rest of the track.
In Rainbows


Comes on strong with the lowkey indie vibes, calling to TRANSATLANTICISM (never thought I’d be making Death Cab for Cutie parallels with Radiohead, but here we are), blending warm and fuzzy tones with lyrics that scrape away the remaining sentimental marrow from whatever’s left of Thom’s ribcage. Rarely do the boys wear their emotions so patently on their sleeve, but with scarcity comes honesty, and the evocation of feeling second-best—like a bit-part in a massive play or unnoticed background scenery—is internally wrenching. (Is there anything worse than feeling worthless?) I hear a touch of trip-hop roots buried deep (deeeeep) beneath Phil’s drumbeat, married gently with Colin’s synthesized wall of bass; along with Thom’s vocal reverb, it’s akin to being trapped in a cave and having to listen to your own thoughts aloud. Partly beautiful, but also eminently haunting. Confession: I cry a little bit on the inside when the violin enters at 2:46, no shame.


Literally, it’s about cannibalism. Metaphorically, it’s referring to the “social” cannibalism that consumes us daily, a vigil for our dog-eat-dog world transcribed through the context of Darwinism as applied to a socioeconomical framework. It captures the blind-eye mentality of corporate ladder-climbers, violently scaling their way to the top via others’ backs, refusing to look back at bodies left in their wake: “Don’t look down, just shove it in your mouth.” The music straddles the line between AMNESIAC’s jazzier elements and HAIL TO THE THIEF’s purely alt-rock tendencies with distinguished verve, tossing traditional song structure aside in lieu of a piece of work that eludes definition with “beginning,” “middle,” and “end” kind of blending into one, cognate mass. And of course, who can forget the blood, sweat, and tears poured into this track? Over one year in the making - a time in which entire albums have been written and recorded - all culminating toward this.
The Bends


I’m unsure if there’s still a huge backlash against “High & Dry” like there was a decade ago, but it’s a sentiment I must assume was born from the depths of smarmy elitists who, after learning secondhand of the syncopation in “Videotape,” vowed to forever turn their noses up at any piece of music lacking such buried complexity. (Either that, or purely obedient fans who caught wind of Thom’s ambivalence toward the song and mindlessly inherited this dogma, too.) My emotional side loves a heaping dollop of 90s-era pop-rock, though, and nobody does it quite like Radiohead. (And goddammit, they don’t/didn’t do it that often; all the more we need to cherish these tracks dearly.) If “Creep” hadn’t existed, I would bet an awful lot of money this’d be Radiohead’s trebuchet into the limelight—it’s got all the makings of Brit-pop stardom. It’s the kind of song that lays smoothly against your palette, tender, sweet, and pleasurable. The first Radiohead song I fell in love with.
Supercollider/The Butcher


Carries an industrial, borderline-grim sound that extends beyond the lofty spirituality of THE KING OF LIMBS, so I can see why didn’t appear on the finalized track list: It essentially mixes that album’s elecro-kineticism with the grisly temper of KID A / AMNESIAC, and what we’re left with is this splendid nugget of bewitching, foreboding grotesquerie. It summons a kaleidoscope of morbid imagery in my mind, one comprised of damp cellars and underground dungeons and torture chambers and stained, medieval weaponry hanging along the musty stone walls. (The fact that Radiohead can conjure these visuals with music that would general be described as comparatively “mellow” or e.g. something other than heavy death/sludge/black metal further exemplifies their wizardry as true artists.) When that drum track doubles up at 2:01, I swear I can feel my arteries tighten up a bit, only to begin sweating moments later when Thom’s background moaning lapses into the soundscape.
The King of Limbs


Upon my first rummage through THE KING OF LIMBS, I complained that “Separator” was too long and monotonic. Years later, I chalked that poor opinion up to improper headspace: The circularity achieves a level of tranquility that serves an actual purpose, and I simply mistook this for laziness at the time, probably disgruntled at the fact we weren’t given IN RAINBOWS: REDUX. Recalls what I loved about “Aqueous Transmission,” the closer on Incubus’s MORNING VIEW: A hearthstone of quietude to slowly conclude upon, transcendence to a calmer platform of existence, if only momentarily. Plus, there are plenty of tiny flourishes and grace notes that weave their way into the mix to provide adequate variation without diverting focus—I was simply too tone-deaf to hear them eight-or-so years ago. Ends with what might be the most succinct description of Radiohead as an enigmatic, constantly-evolving intellectual property, too: “If you think this is over then you’re wrong.” I’ll say.
A Moon Shaped Pool


The previous version of this list was compiled years ago, before A MOON SHAPED POOL was completed, and “True Love Waits” sat at #57. It was the acoustic rendition from “I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings,” and if you asked me today, I’d still tell you I prefer that version to the reimagined, re-recorded, “official” release. Yet here it is - the AMSP variant - sitting proudly at #54, three spots above the predecessor that I apparently favor. [Shrug]. I can only surmise that my estimation of “True Love Waits” *in any form* has grown significantly over the last several years and if I were to rank the live/acoustic track *now*, I’d estimate some place in the low-40s. (For the sake of consistency, I’m choosing to forego the inclusion of “secondary” performances of a track if an official album release exists.) Something about its rawness, its unpowered passion, and its hands-out lack of pride speaks deeply to my spirit; a virtue that grows truer as I’ve gotten older.
Just (For College)


Haaa-ooo-aaaa-ooo-aaa-ow can you not love this song? More importantly, how was this excluded from the finalization of THE BENDS? Tyranny, I say, and for as much as I adore “High and Dry” (it’s only a few places back), this is like its twin sibling, only incrementally better in nearly every conceivable way. It’s a bona fide pop ballad, but unabashedly so, and the comfort it has in its own skin is refreshing. Easily as catchy, accessible, user-friendly, etc., but also a bit more lyrically evolved, open, and mature (even though traces to an earlier provenance). It also contains some incredibly unique backing vocals (who’s the gal, btw?) as well as the most delicious refrain in their entire oeuvre: The kind that I proudly shout at the top of my lungs, basking in the glory of unrepentant pop indulgence, unfazed by any poor soul within the blast radius. Take it—and love it for what it is—or leave it. I choose the former. Oasis *wishes* they’d written this track.
Go to Sleep


Few and far between are fully acoustic Radiohead tracks; even fewer and farther are ones that incorporate tangible stretches of guitar noodling. Thom is undeniably an Englishman here, and there’s an intangible intimacy in the bareback composition, as though we’re sitting in a room with Mr. Yorke and he’s gonna play for us, one-on-one. I was shocked to learn this has only been played live once, and it can’t fall back on the same scapegoats of complexity as “Worrywort” or “Life in a Glasshouse,” so what’s the deal? This is the type of song that would quiet an entire stadium of people, everyone at full attention and focus as Thom plucks and lilts. You can pull a ton of interpretations from the lyrics, but my favorite is usually the simplest: A fully worn out human being, down on their luck, hampered with a nagging vice and insurmountable addiction that’s driven him or her to nothing more than “just a body, pouring down the street.” Hey, I never said it was a happy song.
Street Spirit (Fade Out)


Trapped in purgatory between THE BENDS and OK COMPUTER and probably the best example of the growth and maturity that took place between the two releases, like peeking at the larva before the butterfly emerges. Hollow, pounding drums call to mind a few backbeats on DJ Shadow’s ENTRODUCING, layered with staunch, stilted guitar tones à la early Rolling Stones. (Sans vocals, you could mistake this for an early-90s trip-hop track, esp. starting around 1:48.) Then the warbling, synthetic background effects start waving in, and suddenly you’re listening to the most postmodern self-reflection that Radiohead has ever done. Thom toes the line between singing and merely talking, ensuring the vocal delivery contains the proper amount of grit and arrogance, and Colin’s thumping will ruin your speakers if you’ve got the bass turned too high up. (Is he showcasing a small influence from Flea here? Listen at 3:54.) A subtle skewing of subgenre and influence does a lovely b-side make.


Just as “Talk Show Host” existed in a perfect middle-ground between THE BENDS and OK COMPUTER, “I Might Be Wrong” would be the prime choice for representing the transitory period from AMNESIAC’s vat of rhythm, gloom, and capriciousness into HAIL TO THE THIEF’s more traditional alt-rock sensibilities. Not to keep cramming down the hyperbole, but this is probably Radiohead’s most balanced song, evident right from the opening twenty seconds: Synthetic, phaser-driven white noise is forcefully yoked to a grungy guitar riff—it sounds like two different incantations of Radiohead are meshing and molding into one other simultaneously (and we’re only talking about two instruments). Simple, but brilliant. Again, Thom’s vocals seem reminiscent of the reverberation and low tonality synonymous with the KID A era while Colin plucks a bass line that sounds distinctly HAIL TO THE THIEF-ish. That’s what I love most about this song: It embraces change and exhibits genuine dynamism.
In Rainbows Disk 2


Cut from the same cloth as OK COMPUTER, then dredged through the batter of IN RAINBOWS to form a unique synthesis of these two different (and non-sequential!) Radiohead styles. It has the cocky and confidence aura of songs like “Lucky” or “Karma Police,” cross-pollinated with a graceful, dreamscape backdrop more along the lines of “Reckoner” or “House of Cards.” There’s a hint of grunge bubbling just below the surface, too, elevating Thom’s lyrical disgust with politicians and world leaders who’ve spent their careers being controlled by strings from above (or, cheekily, up on the ladder). Random thing I always notice and inexplicably gush over: Right as Thom sings “give me an answer” at 2:16, the track slings a warm crackling/popping noise against the periphery, subconsciously coating itself with an olde tyme vinyl record veneer. Dunno if that was the band’s intention, and it comes out of nowhere, but I fawn over the quasi-retro feeling it gives me.
OK Computer: Collector's Edition


I would make an embarrassing amount of sacrifices to the devil if he could promise me a cleanly re-recorded, slightly extended version of “How I Made My Millions.” I’m trying hard to think of reasons why I treasure this non-song so dearly and coming up mostly empty handed. It’s overly simple, the lyrics are enigmatic, the quality of the existing recording is subpar, it’s distressingly short, but goddammit *something* about that feeble piano trickle and the delicate way Thom bellows out rudimentary phrases “let it fall” and “never mind” absolutely rips my heart out, effortlessly raises the hair on the back of my neck, and gives me abrupt cold sweats. Maybe there’s some buried intimacy in the low-fi, at-home recording that would be lost in the pristine conditions of a studio - I guess we’ll never know - but I stand by my preposition. Devil, if you’re listening, make this happen and you’ll have a personal servant for the rest of the foreseeable future.
Kid A


And boom, at #47 we have KID A’s first appearance on the list. The thing that’s always intrigued me most about “In Limbo” is that it effectively sounds like a song that’s in limbo: Between what exactly? Not sure, but every time I listen to this song, it places my mind in a pseudo-suspension, a purgatoryesque grey area that has no clear definition, like a dream where I’m falling endlessly into a pit with no apparent bottom. Nestled softly between objective rocker “Optimistic” and “Idioteque,” it acts as midpoint rendezvous between the two, further embracing the imagery set forth by its title. I used to think “In Limbo” was in service to “Optimistic” the same way “Living Loving Maid” was to “Hearthbreaker” i.e., an appendage that shouldn’t be heard without its salient counterpart. But in recent years, “In Limbo” has garnered a level of robustness and morphed into a wonderful standalone track for me, ending with a nearly cathartic vacuum of sound fading into wind.
A Moon Shaped Pool


Now that I’ve wasted a third of my allotted character count on the title, I’ll have to make this relatively concise: The orchestration is simply superb, intricately layered like a fine textile that urges you to reach out and touch it. (And my god does it feel lovely.) There’s a tiny iota of KID A remnants here, and when forced against Jonny’s newfound penchant for swelling string movements and operatic edifice, what we’re left with is a five-minute sustained orgasm of circumscribed atmosphere and carefree paralysis. If there’s any song in Radiohead’s catalog that makes me want to float into the sky and evaporate alongside the clouds with my eyes closed and my palms out, it’s decidedly *this* one. And of course, Phil’s just in the background, tip-tapping along and doing his own miniature improvisation. Not sure why the ridiculous title, though. Frustrating because my compulsive anxiety refuses to let me truncate it.
The Bends


Fades in (weird flex, but okay) and leaves little room for foreplay, spending only a few bars on its intro melody before launching us into the first verse: Somber—lyrically in full, musically in part—as Thom describes a mate in fragile condition, slipping into depression and compromising their relationship under the weight of the cumbersome and exhausting whirlwind of emotions. “I get home from work and you’re still standing in your dressing gown, well what am I to do?” The helplessness is palpable, and the chorus—while marginally uplifting in tone—shifts into a sarcastic bit of positing, representing that mild onset of hysteria once we become fully overwhelmed with our inability to heal the one we love: “Blame it on the black star / blame it on the falling sky / blame it on the satellite…” The first verse is a realization of the problem. The second verse is an attempt to deal with and solve it. The final verse is born from the ashes of the aftermath. Poetic and tragic.
A Moon Shaped Pool (Special Edition)


Comes in all snazzy like lounge music on heroin, the gentle but steady tap of the ride cymbal keeping time for the hypnotic bass riff, equalized such that you can almost hear Colin’s fingers as they pluck and gently rest against the string beneath each note being played. Late-era Radiohead is all about atmospheric domination, and their most recent release (at this time of writing) is no exception. Not as purely orchestral as A MOON SHAPED POOL or technetronic as THE KING OF LIMBS, though it splits the difference supremely down the middle and even stretches its influential limbs as far back as the early-aughts (that drum beat sears like an AMNESIAC track that never was). In fact, if I were given this song in the absence of foreknowledge or context, I’m not sure I could accurately pinpoint its place along the band’s timeline. (Thom’s slightly more matured style of singing notwithstanding.) And that kind of unpredictability is one of the greatest things about Radiohead.
A Moon Shaped Pool


Adequately suited to its title: It’s a song that reproduces the feeling of waking up, still half-asleep and blurry-eyed, having a bit of trouble getting your footing as you stumble out of bed and yawn, everything moving in slow-motion, the world around you quiet and unassuming, yet infinitely intimidating. (You may as well be floating among the clouds.) It’s the record’s most casual and understated track aside from maybe “Glass Eyes,” though it clocks in at over twice the length. And you’d *never* know it. (I was shocked to finally discover that “Daydreaming” was over six minutes long; it always feels like maybe half that.) Mature in the sense that it presents an understanding that “more” is not necessarily “better,” incorporating all of Radiohead’s operatic cultivations while exhibiting an impeccable amount of restraint. So delicate; change one note and the entire thing crumbles to indiscernible rubble. The closing, drawn-out string swells make my heart ache.
Hail to the Thief


One that slid right under my nose upon first spinning HAIL TO THE THIEF and never got much attention from me during the subsequent few years. But I’ve found that my affinity for “Scatterbrain” has climbed the older I get; not sure what that says about my psyche (nor am I sure that I truly *want* to know) or my ever-evolving musical preferences, but I’ve certainly acquired a particular soft spot for… well, softness, I guess, and this vein of melancholic cleanliness and strained crooning speaks to me far more personally now than it did when I was a teenager. “Scatterbrain” is the brooding calm before the storm, but the storm never really “comes,” and in a lot of ways I find that eminently more chilling. Two guitar lines speak in various languages to each other—one arpeggiated, one sustained—the serenity is accented by Phil’s rim clicks, and Thom’s belting stuns like a tranquilizer. Super lofty but somehow it retains the density of a dying star, and *that’s* impressive.
Kid A


This was the meager bone tossed to casual Radiohead fans who were late to the OK COMPUTER hype and anxiously awaited the release of KID A with no preparation for what awaited them on the first half of that record. Bursting after the glacial ambient-piece “Treefingers,” normies everywhere said to themselves, “Well fucking finally, something recognizable as Radiohead.” Meanwhile, I sat stunned at how well they incorporated their alt-rock origins into the dystopian atmosphere that engulfs KID A without sounding sorely out of place. Similarly, there’s no other album that “Optimistic” could possibly fit into without feeling objectively mislaid, and so the apocalyptic overtones are clearly working hard at some subconscious level. If I had to identify what exemplifies this best, I’d point to the deserted aura of the track: The whole thing portends with unmistakable strain, embodied wholly in Thom’s lashing, vulnerable vocals. The surmounting gruff in his voice is critical.
8 Outtakes From Amnesiac


Sounds like an excerpt from a Dr. Seuss cartoon or something Tim Burton might conduct in his dreams; Loo floopers and tar tinkers and who hoovers and gar ginkers and honestly, I don’t even know what instrument I’m hearing approximately 90% of the time, molding a strange helix of comfort and unease that transcends logic. Aptly named, if nothing else, though “orgy” implies an overarching sense of disorder. And at first glance, that seems appropriate. But like one of those Magic Eye pictures, the closer you look, the longer you stare, and the more you detach, it starts to resemble something intricately assembled and complacent. Among the ruckus: Symphonic howls, muffled tubas, various thwacking, what sounds like a drummer dropping his sticks on the set (1:29), a microwave-like warble (1:53), percussive television transmission static (2:35), and possibly a spaceship about to land (2:44). Thom’s muddled caroling makes this one of Radiohead’s creepiest tracks.
The Best Of


Fell head over heads for this song the first time I heard it after about thirty seconds. It’s done nothing but climb in my estimation since then. The opening drum beat is insanely infectious—I often hear it in my sleep—and part of me thinks I’d be content had this ended up a five-minute instrumental track. (I recall thinking it might be during my inaugural listen after two-and-a-half minutes elapsed and still no Thom.) The kit hammering away; the echoed, weeping guitar(s); the slinking bass; this is just a mightily fine piece of written music, the type of stuff that sears into your brain like a hot cattle prod. When Thom finally *does* decide to join the party, none of that eerily baked ambiance is lost, thankfully. His contribution functions as another instrument rather than a “voice” in the traditional sense. This song is an accruement of my anxiety in aural form—sounds like a dig, but I promise it’s not. Apparently, my anxiety grooves hard.
A Moon Shaped Pool


Not sure there’s another song off A MOON SHAPED POOL—or perhaps in Radiohead’s entire body of work—that I’ve about-faced this heavily. An early contender for my least favorite track on the album after several initial spins, until one day, out of nowhere, something just. Fucking. Clicked. Like *that*. And in a flash, almost miraculously, I had a dense moment of clarity wherein I finally understood “Decks Dark” in ways that previously eluded me. Somewhere between Thom’s lilting of “ragdoll cloth people” and the choral “aahs,” an epiphany smacked me square across the face, and the liquid consistency of “Decks Dark” started percolating its way into the depths of my nervous system. Now, the song hits me a purely instinctual level, speaking to me in lofty tongues I barely understand, sideswiping me with grace notes of elegance and delicacy I can hardly comprehend, and reassuring me that everything in this world is beautiful if you give it enough time.
Hail to the Thief


Would be one of my top candidates for Radiohead’s “Most Underappreciated / Consistently Overlooked Song” (among only a few others); it’s possible I’ve had my head selectively buried in the sand like an ostrich, by why does no one—and I mean *no one*—talk about how awesome this song is, even when specifically discussing HAIL TO THE THIEF? Is it because it’s one of the most straightforward rock songs they’ve composed since THE BENDS? (I get hints of Incubus, Wilco, and even a touch of Soundgarden.) That swiftly picked acoustic guitar intro grabs me by the throat and just drags me along for over three minutes, drudging me through its flipping time signatures—4/4 to 6/8 and back again, ad infinitum—and leading me through the song’s cyclic melody that momentarily builds and continually resets itself, meddling around in the key of G before non-sequentially climbing upward (A-sharp, A, C, B), creating this “stagnant-progression-transgression” loop that I pitifully admire.
Kid A

>> KID A

“Kid A” is the most *Kid A* song off KID A, though you don’t need me to tell you that. If someone were to ask me “do you think I’d like KID A?” I’d tell them to listen to “Kid A,” and, based on their reaction, tell them to either dive in headfirst or stick to THE BENDS and OK COMPUTER for a while longer. This may as well have been recorded on Mars and left for earthlings to discover, study, and spend eras trying to understand what lifeforms could create such an empyreal piece of art. I hesitate to call this an “instrumental” track because what “instruments” are being used? UFOs? Flux capacitors? EMF meters? Geiger counters? (I’m speaking in jest but hopefully you get my point.) This eclipses “genre.” If it were a human it would be genderless, raceless, unclassifiable. Hypnotic, electronic drum tracks chug along, synths warble, things shimmer, and all spoken words are warped and altered right to the edge of humanly recognition. Ladies and gentlemen: The 21st Century.
In Rainbows


Once a favorite of mine, it’s almost weird for me to see it sitting here in the mid-30s (which means it has fallen from “absolute masterpiece” to “very near masterpiece”), but alas, it’s the correct placement this time around. If I had to pick one Radiohead track to get someone up and moving, though, it’d still this. (Or maybe, maaaaaaybe “Lotus Flower.”) One thing I’ve always loved—and *still* love—about “Jigsaw” is that it’s essentially an ode to getting tipsy and cruising for tail at a pub. The first verse alone makes that abundantly clear, but Thom has a way of morphing that animalistic energy into something more complex, more poetic: “The walls abandon shape / You’ve got a Cheshire cat grin / All blurring into one.” I like to think the second and third verses shift gears a bit and detail a man trying to schmooze a girl into sleeping with him before they black out from alcohol consumption. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m not. The melody is perfect, though.


My previous list combined both KID A and AMNESIAC versions into the same placement; I’ve decided to treat them as two separate entities this time around because, after all, they are. I like this from an experimentation standpoint: It’s not often bands release the same lyrics and structure with two different sets of music on two consecutive albums, but then again that’s why Radiohead is Radiohead and other bands just don’t matter all that much. (I kid.) Herk Harvey directed a film in the early 60s called ‘Carnival of Souls’ and while it’s not a favorite of mine, there’s a superlative scene of the lead female walking hesitantly through an empty, run-down amusement park, looking discombobulated at the strange contrast between machinery made to engender fun and their abandoned, dilapidated state. That is *precisely* the feeling I get from “Morning Bell/Amnesiac”—like walking through a forsaken, decaying carnival and my god it’s both terrifying and fascinating.
OK Computer


Quite possibly the most orthodox pop-rock song Radiohead’s done since THE BENDS: Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, outro. Ornery verses set to the tune of A-minor with a falsely uplifting C-D-G chorus that dips into a snarky B-minor on the final line (“…when you mess with us”). But to deny “Karma Police” based on simplicity or conventionality is imprudent: *This* is how pop songs of the 90s could/should have sounded. “Karma police, arrest this girl / Her Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill, and we have crashed her party.” Delirious, twisted humor meshing uncomfortably with rotten, crushing reality, highlighting the overwhelming, occasionally debilitating distaste people have toward things that hardly matter. Jealously, envy, schadenfreude: An all-include pity party that we’ve all been cordially invited to. The journey of an aggravated narcissistic through a self-deprecating journey of wishing grief unto others. Imagine a world where all “pop” music was this quality.
A Moon Shaped Pool


Was gonna lead off with “Another one that kind of ‘snuck up’ on me” before surmising that I could theoretically say that about nearly every track off A MOON SHAPED POOL, which I’m now realizing is just an album full of slow and steady growers. The way this opens, though, is such a breath of fresh and unexpected air. Booming floor toms, upper-neck acoustics, falsetto moaning, and the cherry on top: Maracas! (For a while I thought I was hearing a cabasa, but I’m confident they’re ‘just’ maracas.) Thom’s looping background tracks are as calming as they are sinister, and when that second guitar track comes in around 1:45, I can literally feel the muscles in my chest tighten up a bit. There’s a severely understated jungle rhythm buried beneath the glossy texture that just makes me want to fucking dance, but the mellow composure and masterful integration of each element (without overdoing anything) staves off any potential kitsch or adolescence. A miracle of timbre.
Hail to the Thief

>> 2 + 2 = 5

From “Airbag” to “Everything in Its Right Place” to “Packt Like Sardines,” you—like me—had no idea what to expect from the opening track the first time you fired up HAIL TO THE THIEF. Was anybody placing bets on an unabashed rock anthem, though? I believe this is what everyone was preparing for back in 2000 when KID A came out; this sounds like a natural, fluid path leading away from OK COMPUTER i.e., largely rock-oriented but progressively structured and shaded. But Radiohead wouldn’t be Radiohead if they simply delivered what the world was “ready” for: It’s *so* like them to drag us through the metaphorical mud bath of bipolar electronica before shifting back into slightly more traditional territory (thereby making it seem and feel untraditional). Taking the triptych form of “Paranoid Android” (condensed) with the raw, aggressive verve of “Electioneering” (furbished), it covers a whole lotta ground in no time at all. Fun fact: Radiohead has never opened an album poorly.
OK Computer


Trying to relive the feeling of hearing “Airbag” for the first time ever—after having known nothing else but THE BENDS and thinking “hey these Radiohead guys are a pretty good British pop-rock group, eh?”—is futile. It’s one of those defining, formative moments in every young person’s life: The second they hear that distorted low-E-string guitar riff, they may not realize it at the time, but their lives are about to get shaken, and music as they currently know it will never be the same. Not to knock THE BENDS (because it’s a good album), but the upscaled production, depth of composition, and multi-textured songwriting improvements are apparently within the first minute of OK COMPUTER’s opening track. Jonny’s grungy strumming, Phil’s unusually staccato pounding, Colin’s stop-and-go thumping, and Thom’s razor-sharp-yet-paradoxically-delicate vocals combine to form a masterclass in how to introduce a record. Proof that Radiohead wasn’t “just another 90s rock band.”
In Rainbows Disk 2


Did you forget about this song? Most people do, and that very fact give me uncomfortable stress pangs. If I could play god and switch one (minor) thing about Radiohead’s career to date, I’d bestow IN RAINBOWS with eleven tracks, and wedge “Down Is the New Up” right between “House of Cards” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place.” Thom’s piano carries such a delicious, meaty presence; you can almost feel the piano hammers thudding against the strings. The interplay between Phil’s tinny, reverberating ride cymbal and extra-tight snare drum shots (mainly during the intro and bridges) is perfect. (And then at 0:19 when the drums drop out and you’ve just got Thom singing alongside his piano, I actually melt a little bit.) A touch dreary, even a touch spooky, the elicited atmosphere is one that feels graciously uneasy but energetic all the same. The gradual, layered build-up from 3:00 to about 3:31 is the type of shit that brings tears to my cold, stony eyes. This song rules.
Kid A


C, G-sharp, G, and C. Those were the four notes you first heard in 2000 that, if you’re currently reading some random guy’s opinion on one-hundred Radiohead tracks, probably changed your life forever. The four notes that made you question whether you left the record store with the correct CD. You did. It was Radiohead. Just not the Radiohead that anyone expected. (But then again, in hindsight, that is *so* Radiohead.) Not only a fitting introduction for the most groundbreaking album of the aughts, but a paradigm shift at how you approached new music. It was, to say the least, a brilliant moment of “fuck what you thought you know” catharsis. I restarted “Everything in Its Right Place” about five or six times before I made it to track two during my first-ever KID A playthrough. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I wasn’t sure how to properly absorb this supermassive culture shock. But there’s not a goddamn thing I’d change about this modulated stroke of genius.


First things first: The live piano version of this song is legitimately better than sex and would contend for a Top 10 spot if I were to consider such recordings for this list. But take that as no slight to the original AMNESIAC release: The conceit here is assuredly a gimmick, but one that works so well at achieving an off-kilter sense of anxiety that I can’t find room to complain. Along with the warped background noise—which sounds like an archived, electronic variant of “I Will,” only resurrected and reversed in piecemeal—the demented ambiance from this track is staggering, a strange form of edging under self-asphyxiation, and when Thom hits that first sustained and falsetto “spinniiiiing plaaaaaates,” it’s like a simultaneous release of all the pent up, nervous energy from the preceding two minutes. A tragically overlooked song on AMNESIAC (in my estimation), though it remains a successful experiment to my mind, one that nails moods I can’t even describe.
In Rainbows

>> 15 STEP

A disheveled little beast, loaded with electrokinetic vibes; sliding, lounge act guitars; choppy, synchronized drum tracks; a bass line that won’t sit still; and a peculiar, half-whispered/half-urgent vocal delivery. Yet despite the multitude of baroque elements, everything congeals “just so,” and, especially given the glitchy, quasi-samba evocation, nothing feels even moderately out of place. Like a Jenga tower whose structural integrity is suspect at first glance, but upon further inspection you notice that every single brick was meticulously placed in a location that was *just right,* each bearing equal loads and amassing to a shockingly impenetrable fortress. The devil is truly in the details, though. My favorite seemingly-minor-but-actually-massive instance is the switch from closed hi-hat to splashy ride cymbal right as Thom belts out, “one by one” for the first time. That, or the way they completely evaporate at 1:38 and re-enter at 1:45 next to fresh guitar lick.
OK Computer


I think this song was singlehandedly responsible for Brand New’s THE DEVIL AND GOD ARE RAGING INSIDE ME (seriously, there are *so* many similarities); it compares to Radiohead’s catalog like Ted Bundy compares to psychologically stable human beings. Raw, unhinged energy, and raspy discontent form this soundtrack for the emotionally unbalanced: For all the death metal bands who down-tune three whole steps and growl about bloody limbs and sacrificial rituals and explicit murder tactics, none of them get remotely close to the realm of thoroughgoing trepidation and lunacy that Radiohead achieves here. Each verse builds slowly, tossing layer upon layer of anxiety into the mix; it oozes like unidentifiable goop from the cracks in the floor and before you can react, you’re waist-deep in this mess. Favorite part at 1:48 when we get two bars of momentary lapse in calamity before a second guitar joins, Thom strains even more, and Phil menacingly lays on the ride cymbal.
Kid A


Has always been proven to be the hardest song for me to accurately rank. I love it, of course, and any time I solidify its position, I end up thinking to myself after the fact: “Well this is way too low.” On any given day this may be as high as #15 (previous list iteration was #22, so not too far off here). KID A’s most understated waft of brilliance (compared to all the obvious, ostentatious ones), and, in its totality, one of the most steadily cultivating songs of all time. If you don’t believe me, just search for an amplitude chart of this song: It resembles a piece of candy corn. This is the definition of “crescendo,” and done so subtly that you don’t outwardly notice it as much as you subconsciously perceive it. Nonchalance, fully harnessed and utilized to an impeccable degree. To say nothing of the song’s “lurch dig into your chest and wring your heart out until it resembles a puny, shriveled raisin” lyricism and color. Devastating *and* gorgeous.
A Moon Shaped Pool


You’ll notice that this is the highest ranked Radiohead opener on my list, and, I believe—whether this is considered a hot take or not—the mathematically greatest opener in their oeuvre when you consider [establishing tone] + [building atmosphere] + [standalone power]. Yes, even over “Airbag” and *gasp!* “Everything in Its Right Place”—both iconic and incredible in their own right, but, to me, “Burn the Witch” is the absolute best and most encompassing preclude to its residing album than any of the others. It is a one-song summation of A MOON SHAPED POOL, introducing us to the orchestral elements, falsetto crooning, dank ambiance, laced with soft and delicate undertones, its dreamlike complexion marching forcefully towards a grandiose, operatic build up before pulling the rug out at the last minute. (For the record: “Kid A” would’ve been a better - i.e., slightly-more representative - opener for KID A.) This one’s done nothing but grown on me since 2016.
The King of Limbs


Who is this old man having a five-minute epileptic seizure while some hipster, new-age house music drones on in the background? Oh, that’s Thom Yorke and it just happens to be Radiohead’s latest single. By the time 2011 rolled around, you’d have thought nothing they could do would surprise us anymore, but all it took was their objectively “catchiest” song since…well who knows. Metronomic drums laced with the deep bellow of the buzzing bass, this track absolutely bumps, and it’s perhaps the most prime example of subverting the bombast electronica elements of THE KING OF LIMBS and congealing them into something that could legitimately be described as “poppy.” The way Thom utilizes his vocal register to glide along the surface here is nearly as mesmerizing as the music itself, hybridizing some kind of wispy-falsetto-whisper-lilt and it’s just all kinds of incredible. When he (and the music) transition into the chorus—“…and slowly we unfurl…”—all is right with the world.
The Bends


Or: How to Write an Alt-Pop Hyper-Ballad 101. Radiohead’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “November Rain,” or “More Than Words” (only far, far better than each of those). Sidesteps cheese and corny cliques by supplementing with a heart-rending vocal performance, one that matches the conviction of the music and drips with a legitimate, underlying passion. The person singing these words did not simply write them, they *lived* them, and we can feel it. Proof that (uncharacteristically) sentimental songs do not intrinsically suck, just that 95% of artists these days (and even back then) were writing with their pens and not their innards. Allusions of a world-weary person fed up with the phoniness around him—masked emotions, feigned happiness, tallied possessions, and constantly feeling invisible to the one person you wish would notice you. The soft whimper of “It wears me out / If I could be who you wanted, all the time…” guts me like a fish and rips me asunder.
Kid A


Funny anecdote: Upon hearing to this for the first time some fifteen-or-so years ago, I *knew* the title was “Morning Bell” (I was probably scanning the tracklist as I listened), and yet I pondered heavily why Thom opened the song with “Good morning, Bill / Good mooorning, Bill.” Who was Bill? Was he related to Sarah from “Lucky?” Moving on. The superior version of “Morning Bell,” obviously (I’ve yet to meet anyone who disagrees; if you’re out there, let me know so I can personally shun you forever), and while I still really, *really* like the demented, carnival-esque AMNESIAC take, the KID A version is on some intangible, back-alley butcher shop shit. The incessantly choppy drums, blown out bass, and nasally vocals intertwine like twisted metal; listening to this song unearths dark, morbid crevices of your psyche you didn’t know existed. I swear to god Thom sheepishly squawking, “cut the kids in haaaaalf” is the single most chilling moment in Radiohead’s existence.
In Rainbows


Your first date. Your first kiss. Your first break-up. Your first concert. Your first car. Your first job. Your first day of college. Your first house. The first time you heard Thom belt out “You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking” followed by a celestial chorus of delicate ooohs. These are the malleable, defining moments of every young man or woman’s life. Hits like a cold water quench after the increasing energy from “15 Step” to “Bodysnatchers,” reestablishing a bit of quietude and restoring our heart rates to normal levels. It has always intrigued me that the album titled IN RAINBOWS is the one with the line about painting yourself white; perhaps some foresight into the song’s title, “Nude?” Between Thom’s fragile vocal register, Phil’s rim taps, and Ed’s bright guitar rakes, I find myself in a perpetual state of euphoria every time I listen to this. Hard to believe this digs its roots as far back as 1998: Imagine being at *that* show. I need a cigarette.


One of Radiohead’s (many) gradual builders, and truly one of the finest examples of how to construct momentum. This thing is a goddamn battle cry. I’ve always adored the rich intake of air that you can hear at the very beginning, preceding the reverberated guitar chords. This audible inhale is more than a simple preparation for singing. It prescribes a sort of “here goes nothing, it’s now or never” agenda to the track. In one, seemingly insignificant pull of oxygen, the disposition of the entire song is instilled as vigilant and the wry attitude becomes immediately apparent. Brilliantly structured musically, too: Begins with an E-flat minor, then drops seven steps to the next note. Then up five steps. Then down seven steps. Then up five steps, repeating until the final lapse (which drops eight steps instead of seven), creating a sinusoidal back-and-forth sensuality that, as a whole, still trends downward as though we were slowly being lowered into hell. Amazing.
A Moon Shaped Pool


Almost my favorite A MOON SHAPED POOL track, one that grabbed me instantly upon my first spin of the album and hasn’t let go since. Opens with an orgy of inconsequential noises: Flutes, a synth, twinkling pianos, single-note bass plucking, random tambourine flourishes. When that acoustic guitar riff finally busts through the wall of smoke—and the bass and drums eventually follow suit—I can literally feel my slacks tighten a bit. Radiohead has always been able to “make sense” of what could otherwise be described as foggy or cacophonous, and this is the prime example: Composition like a loose-limbed jam sesh, I swear it feels like a million things are going on, and all of those things are independent of one another yet still manage to coagulate into something resembling harmonious balance. Maybe my favorite vocal performance from Thom. He sings “one day at a time” in three different forms throughout the song, which means I orgasm precisely thrice every time I listen to it
OK Computer


The king of inversely proportional tone and content, along the lines of biting into an elegant chocolate truffle only to find it’s been filled with smegma. As buoyant and bouncy and cheerful as the meter of the music might be, the lyrics describe a man fed up with his monotonous, slave-like career and his boring white-picket life, eventually ceding to his inner-demons and asphyxiating himself by running his car inside a closed garage. Lines like “I’ll take the quiet life, a handshake of carbon monoxide,” and “This is my final fit / My final bellyache,” sear with tragic inevitability, though my favorite is the less direct “Such a pretty house and such a pretty garden.” There’s a hint of mockery there, as if the narrator was looking over his picturesque estate with blazing contempt, finally acknowledging that material successes do not always engender happiness. Or maybe it’s from the POV of a passerby admiring the place, oblivious of the lifeless body in the garage. Oof.
Kid A


I cringe when I hear someone say about a certain Radiohead song: “This doesn’t sound like a Radiohead song,” mostly because they don’t have a concise or concentric “sound” around which all songs revolve. But, if I were to swallow my pride and slap that generalization upon just *one* Radiohead song anyway, it’d be “Idioteque.” Not only does it bathe in the overarching electrokinetic ambiance and dread of KID A, but it has an (almost) techno-club metric to it, and is, for lack of a better word, the most “danceable” song the band has ever done (aside from perhaps LOTUS FLOWER, but the competition is close). But, in true Radiohead fashion, it’s exceedingly far removed from a traditional “dance” song, rather the dance is more of a panic attack, a frantic (and mostly involuntary) flailing of limbs in the wake of eclipsing paranoia. The words themselves aren’t exactly masterful, but the key here is Thom’s delivery. He sounds like a man running on his last, waning shred of sanity
The King of Limbs


Even if you’re a steadfast KING OF LIMBS dissenter—which I am *not*, just to be clear—be thankful it gave us “Codex,” if nothing else. It’s easily the crowning achievement of the album, and one of the most marvelous / celestial / beautiful / [other twinkly, gushing adjectives] songs in Radiohead’s canon. There are very few things in this world more enchanting than the opening hammer strokes of “Codex.” Six. Excluding the small instrumental break and change-up near the end of the song, that’s how many chords comprise the meat of the song. Only six. Sometimes perfection needn’t be complication, though, and the pared-down assemblage is assuredly most of the charm here. The accents that do exist are small and never interfere or compete with Thom and his piano e.g. the underscored trumpets playing beneath “Slide your hand / Jump off the end,” at 2:38. By this point, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played “Codex” and absolutely zoned out for five minutes straight. An elixir.
In Rainbows


A somewhat relentless dynamism that doesn’t feel particularly rushed or hectic because of how comparatively “soft” everything is, from the gentle, arpeggiated guitars with infinite cleanliness to the gauzy reverb of Thom’s delivery (and, of course, Ed’s otherworldly background moaning). A song that adds little by little, layer by layer, building to the cliff-dropping climax, one that personifies its title in more ways than one: The fluidity is inescapable, and this may have been recorded underwater for all we know. Hypnotizing, but never borders on repetitive or monotonous given the staggered, additive approach. My personal favorite variation is when the drums bust wide open from a tightly close hi-hate to an emphatic ride cymbal at 2:25. And even once we enter that calm moment of catharsis and think things might be over, we’re launched back into a high-octane outro that continues to modulate and build before coming to a breathtaking, screeching halt.
OK Computer


May as well be called “Cocky,” because the ripping arrogance in Thom’s voice pierces through this whole thing like a fishhook. Surely Radiohead’s most caustic and unforgiving song w.r.t. demeanor alone, the music following suit with a care-free sort of pageantry that somehow manages to feel scathing and abrasive all the same. Dunno the deep web’s take on “Lucky,” but I feel that it’s too often overlooked when picking top tier OK COMPUTER tracks. (And yes, I’ve ranked several above it, but picking between your top five OK COMPUTER songs is like picking a favorite Skittles flavor. That is, pointless. Because I’m just going to shove a handful in my face all at once, anyway.) I love the way the lines “I feel my luck could change” and “it’s gonna be a glorious day” are flip-flopped between verses and I love the way they’re sung differently with each permutation. Also: That lonely, quibbling guitar that shines back in at 3:07 gets my endorphins flowing. This song is a monument.
Kid A


This has always been a Radiohead closer that I’ve held in high esteem, and that notion has only grown more favorable with time. Its influence from Björk’s “Unravel” is unmistakable; that that happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time should do most of the legwork in explaining why my knee-jerk reaction to “Motion Picture Soundtrack” was, is, and always has been overwhelming awe. The opening organ captivates me instantly; Thom’s gentle murmurs make my tear ducts churn; winding harps deliver chills down the small of my back; the heavenly choir paralyzes me with its immense clemency. This song is simply too beautiful for words, no combination of characters exist that could adequately describe the feelings of wonderment and reverence it instills in me. The closure of “I will see you in the next life” trending into the sinusoidal black hole of instruments is a perfect way to punctuate a perfect album. As Queen Björk might describe it all: Warmthness.


No need to dive into a musical history lesson about bizarre time signatures: The opening piano phrase of “Pyramid Song” has a swankiness that can be *felt*—deconstructing down to a mathematical formula nearly defeats the purpose. It ruins the illusion, the same way you’ll never be as impressed with a magic trick as when you’re oblivious to how it’s done. The strained quiver of strings in the periphery during the introduction is one of my favorite Radiohead nonpareils (almost hinting at the direction they’d take with AMSP), and the excitement in which I anxiously await Phil’s pseudo-swingtime entrance is unparalleled. Beyond the atypical rhythm, “Pyramid Song” is otherwise as straightforward as they come: One verse repeated twice (with the last line further repeated twice in isolation). That’s it. Yet your head is spinning with off-time piano strokes, swelling violins, synth warbles, and jazzy bass+drum combos. Simplicity and complexity can make swell bedfellows, eh?
OK Computer


Devine. That it’s typically considered Radiohead’s crowning achievement is neither an accident nor a wrongheaded stance: I couldn’t blame anyone for making this their unequivocal #1 pick. It’s easily one of the most ambitious songs of its respective era, doing for alternative rock what 2001: A Space Odyssey did for films. It stretched the boundaries of what alternative rock should / could (and would eventually) be. The fascinating three-part structure continues to thrill me to this very day; the integration of acoustic, cabasas, flanges, wood blocks, crunchy distortion, and post-Gregorian chanting is befuddlingly perfect, to the point that I remain perplexed at how this was written and composed over twenty years ago. It sounds post-modern *now*, for Christ’s sake. As if the dueling guitars didn’t already send me into a cardiac arrest, my atria swell to at least five times their normal size when that acoustic line joins back in after “God loves his children, yeah.”
Hail to the Thief


This thing looms and looms *hard*. Every time I listen to it, I underestimate its measured pace, taking its time, wading, slowly accruing: When you hear those first, rapping snare hits at 1:53, you’re sure the song’s going to bust the gates wide open, but alas! Not yet. But between the booming percussion, supercool hand claps (snaps?), and Thom’s layered foreground vocals and background croons/chants, there’s never a dull moment. The anticipation continues to grow, knowing the climax mustn’t be much farther. I can’t suppress my elation when the second guitar joins alongside “why so green and lonely?” (plus the way Thom stretches out the word “lonely” thrice just *slays* me), and the rock-n-roll apex doesn’t actually explode until very nearly four minutes into the track, but it’s all the better having been antedated by such a glorious build-up. Question: Is the orgasm better when the sex lasts thirty seconds, or four minutes? (Beyond that, it becomes too much like work.)
Kid A


Eight minutes and fifty-five seconds into KID A and that semi-distorted bass riff of “The National Anthem” hits you like a slap across the face, reminding you—Oh yeah! This *is* the Radiohead I once knew and loved: Still marbled with glorious stripes of alienesque paraphernalia but reaching back to their BENDS/OK COMPUTER era grunginess for a concoction that makes my toes curl in the best possible way. If I could describe this song with one word, it would be: Entropy. The way this song gradually falls apart and becomes unraveled—with a few, ephemeral blips of falsely regained composure—is precisely the kind of measured insanity that sends me into uncontrollable throes of rapture. An aural map of psychosomatic augmentation, a vicarious journey through a mind riddled by persecution complexes and worldly paranoia. This song shreds my nerves and makes me want to lock myself in my house and board up the windows. (And I say that as a *positive* thing, to be sure.)
In Rainbows


Like “Pyramid Song,” I’m going to punt on talking compositional specifics—those syncopated beats, oh my!—because [1] I don’t have enough space. and [2] likewise, “Videotape” has enough gloss that its impact is visceral and needn’t be belabored with musical theory and bawdy breakdowns. (And *both* permutations of the song—the bareback recording on IN RAINBOWS and the upbeat version often played live—are equally invigorating for a variety of different reasons.) I am a sucker for simplicity, though, and syncopation notwithstanding, “Videotape” is marvelously stripped-down and unprocessed. The drums aptly mimic the clanking guts of an old film projector as Thom’s vocal register stings with a frailty that violently tugs against my insides: “No matter what happens next, you shouldn’t be afraid because I know today has been the most perfect day I’ve ever seen.” Just typing that tossed me into a frenzy of emotion, and listening to it turns me into a sopping puddle on the floor.
OK Computer


Writing about this song is becoming an increasingly difficult task as the years roll on, because I’m finding that the things I adore the most aren’t exactly palpable e.g. when Phil finally adds the ride cymbal at 1:49, a feeling of pure ecstasy envelopes my entire body. Yet trying to describe that moment with words severely undersells it. Likewise, I couldn’t begin to expound upon why the second repetition of “You know / you know where you are with…” at 3:42 triggers automatic goose pimples, or why the dual-track vocals in the final chorus give me uncontrollable shivers. They just. Fucking. Do. It’s a song that, at a glance, appears casual and normal, fundamental even. But whenever I try to reach out and grab it, I pull back a hand full of nothing but air. Its deceptive in that way: Superficially normative, but its true pleasures are transcendental and wholly ineffable. Even the modulated bleeping at 3:28 causes my heart to palpitate. I can’t believe humans made this.
A Moon Shaped Pool


Whenever “Ful Stop” comes on, the rest of the world ceases to exist for six full minutes. It’s a spiral of dystopian doom, comprised of several repurposed elements of various past releases, all the way back to OK COMPUTER. It is a vortex of dark, oracular energy—a black hole of mental distress from which there is no escape. It’s such a morbid gratification, though, to the point where I’m questioning if my love of this song would be considered masochistic? You may as well throw me into a coffin and bury me alive: There’s a controlled chaos thrumming along the perpetuating drum and bass beats that simultaneously fingers my anxiety and beguiles me endlessly. It’s like staring directly at the sun and, despite the fact that it’s eating away at your retinae, being unable to look away because something about the experience is inexplicably purgative and cleansing to your soul. It’s aural psychodrama, reenacting my innermost fears and anxieties while achieving strange liberation.


Thoroughly stunning: The coupe de grâce of AMNESIAC, one of Radiohead’s most under-appreciated tracks, and emphatically the greatest closer they’ve ever conceived. The jazz-influence, minor key ensemble casually spills out like a dirge—something you might to hear at the site of a funeral pyre—purposely disheveled, as though the band members were improvising their individual pieces as they went along, growing more restless and turbulent as the song tumbles along, trampling forward at the slowest tempo imaginable, each downbeat landing heavy-footed like a monster nonchalantly working its way toward you, always mere seconds away from swallowing you whole. The frisson that cascades over me during the commencing trumpet blare of each chorus is immeasurable. My favorite minutiae are the simple explosion of snare drum blasts in the second chorus (as opposed to the light, trilled taps of the first). You’ll never convince me this isn’t a thoroughbred masterpiece.
In Rainbows


A highly personal song for me; one that came out during a very crucial and formative time in my life and like a therapist that knew all the proper areas to probe, words to utter, and drugs to prescribe, “Reckoner”—in all of its celestial grandeur—hit exactly the right notes and exactly the right times. The sheer delicacy of its surface texture was enough to lacquer me with emotion frailty: There was legitimately a time, not long after the release of IN RAINBOWS, where I could listen to “Reckoner” by myself and be brought to the edge of tears several times over the course of five minutes. The guitar first joining in. Thom’s introductory spout. The piano entrance at 1:20. The drum beat switch at 1:28. The entire bridge. The vocal tremolo segueing from the bridge back into the outro, which fluxes into another gorgeous, falsetto murmur. The string arrangement at 3:33. This is one of the most poignant pieces of art ever crafted, and on some days it’s my favorite Radiohead song.
OK Computer


Simply, a perfect piece of music. Though beyond its total absence of anything you could legitimately consider a flaw, it performs each of its facets superlatively. The hollow acoustic intro, evoking a shrouding feeling of captivity; the choir bellows eliciting the subsequent empowerment against sovereignty; the overall exquisite accumulation of momentum and its vehement paroxysm (Thom first yell of “choke you”…my god, does a greater sound exist?) to signify costly freedom; and the cocksure closure, as sinister as it is victorious, and as haunting as it is emancipating. “Exit Music” utilizes each of its individual elements—even the atypical and/or non-“rock” ones—so flawlessly that my wherewithal to communicate its greatness evaporates and my instinctual reaction is to sit there, stupefied and utterly spellbound, for four-and-a-half-minutes while I marvel at its construction, understanding that displacing any single note or sound would cause it to collapse.
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