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tec’s RADIOHEAD, Ranked

Ah yes, the list that nobody was waiting for. But hey- I’ve got emojis!
Pablo Honey

Overall Score | 2.71 | 🌕🌕🌗🌑🌑

🥇 I Can’t
🥈 Stop Whispering
🥉 Prove Yourself

PABLO HONEY is only considered steaming hot garbage because of who made it and what they would eventually become. Slap this among some unknown English band’s discography who fazed out in the late nineties and it’d have a much more forgiving reception, if not an entirely positive one. I understand, to a degree - with what Radiohead has to offer now, there’s almost no justifiable reason to revisit this angsty Brit-rock starter kit. But, for what it is, it’s perfectly serviceable, and frequently more enjoyable than most people care to admit. Hell, I have the three tracks listed above in regular rotation on my personal playlist. Just don’t bring up “Creep.” That song blows.
Hail to the Thief

Overall Score | 3.32 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑

🥇 There There
🥈 Go to Sleep
🥉 Scatterbrain

I feel the same about this now as I did back in 2003: A pretty good, occasionally great album that’s too bloated and unfocused to solidify itself as a cohesive masterpiece. In reality, you could trim this down to eight or nine tracks and it’d rank much higher. My picks would be [1] 2+2=5; [2] Sit Down. Stand Up; [3] Sail to the Moon; [4] Go to Sleep; [5] Where I End and You Begin; [6] We Suck Young Blood (yes, I’m serious); [7] There There; [8] A Punchup at a Wedding; [9] Scatterbrain. Now *that* is an excellent hypothetical record. Notice the omission of “A Wolf at the Door.” Yeah, I am one of the six or seven people in the world who hates that track. Sue me. And if I was allowed to supplement with B sides, “Paperbag Writer” and “Gagging Order” would make the cut.
The Bends

Overall Score | 3.54 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑

🥇 Black Star
🥈 Fake Plastic Trees
🥉 Sulk

I mean...it’s a great album, one whose greatness is probably hoisted upon the back of a such a comparatively amateurish predecessor. People who find ways to wedge this into their Top Three Radiohead albums are somewhat delusional, though—at its core, it’s still just a very simple, British alt-rock record that can’t hold a candle artistically to (most of) the albums that would follow. Taste is subjective, yada yada, I get it, but if *this* is your favorite or even second-favorite Radiohead album, then I’d argue that you don’t really like Radiohead all that much. In any case, toss this album into a vacuum and it improves significantly. It wilts a bit in context. Hot take #1: “Sulk” is one of the best tracks here.
The King of Limbs

Overall Score | 3.69 | 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑

🥇 Codex
🥈 Lotus Flower
🥉 Feral

Unfairly bastardized for the way it strayed from the straight and narrow as well as its questionable brevity; but those claiming to have a grasp on Radiohead’s trajectory at any point in time are delirious, surely, and in many ways this could be “the most Radiohead” release of all. In all seriousness, how do you listen to “Bloom” and even feign disappointment, or somehow conclude this an immediate faliure? And surely the likes of “Lotus Flower,” “Codex,” and “Separator” are approachable enough to whet the appetites of more casual listeners. True, I don’t think this achieves a greatness that’s equitable to Radiohead’s maximum potential, but the hate this album gets is unwarranted. Hot take #2: “Feral” is massively underrated jam.
A Moon Shaped Pool

Overall Score | 4.05 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑

🥇 Ful Stop
🥈 The Numbers
🥉 Present Tense

Hemmed and hawed a while over the many cuts that were just decades-old revamps of live sketches that hadn’t previously seen the light of day and how the track list was cheekily alphabetized with no logical flow in mind. But the gravitational pull of this beast is unrelenting, undeniable. Jonny’s side projects (as both a solo act and a film score composer) bleed into the music, chiseling out Radiohead’s most orchestral work to date; Thom’s crooning is as soft and buttery as ever, and the overarching delicacy makes for a stunning soundscape caught somewhere between a cloud and a dream. I still think the sequence could be improved, but “Burn the Witch” is the opener in every permutation.
In Rainbows

Overall Score | 4.25 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌗

🥇 Reckoner
🥈 Videotape
🥉 Nude

Radiohead’s most buoyant and starry-eyed album, both aurally and thematically, and while there’s still a swarth of melancholy that envelopes everything, the comparative brightness of tone and temperature is what continues to resonate (also making this very aptly titled). Like sure, “Videotape” is heartbreaking but it’s also hopeful in a strange, almost morbid way; it’s like that strange relative who views death not as an “end” but merely “the next step,” so to speak. Probably the most immediate Radiohead release to me personally - everything else was, to some extent, a grower, but this knocked me out from Day One. During my first-ever listen of “Reckoner” I could’ve sworn that I was just imagining the whole thing.

Overall Score | 4.34 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌗

🥇 Life in a Glasshouse
🥈 Pyramid Song
🥉 Like Spinning Plates

It has been two decades now, but even back in 2001, the “KID B” jokes were stale and worn out, a tired reduction that was based more in wordplay and behind-the-scenes knowledge than sonic evaluation. Sure this was written and recorded at the same time as KID A. So what? AMNESIAC’s personality, while similarly glum, is entirely unique, projecting a much more demented and paranoid wall of sound than its older brother. If KID A is spending yet another weekend alone eating microwavable TV dinners, drinking wine, and watching Chopped reruns, AMNESIAC is solitary confinement with a straitjacket that’s too tight and terrible case of tinnitus. It’s an acquired taste, I suppose, but those often end up being the best in the end.
OK Computer

Overall Score | 4.79 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌕

🥇 Exit Music (For a Film)
🥈 Let Down
🥉 Lucky

Hard to argue against this album’s ubiquity, which is honestly so massive that it’s surprisingly easy to listen to it and think to yourself, “what’s the point?” Admittedly, as a wee teenager, it took me several spins to “get” it, too—it wasn’t until I listened to it on the long drive from Detroit, MI to Louisville, KY one year that its greatness finally registered with me, almost unnoticed. I threw it on whimsically to pass the time, and by the time the climax of “Climbing Up the Wall” had started, I thought to myself, “this album is a goddamned masterpiece.” Time has only ossified that knee-jerk reaction into a bona fide truth, and I couldn’t blame anyone for crowning this Radiohead’s true opus. I’m just a sad boy at heart, I guess.
Kid A

Overall Score | 4.95 | 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌕

🥇 Motion Picture Soundtrack
🥈 The National Anthem
🥉 How to Disappear Completely

“The soundtrack to my depression,” said every melancholic millennial in monotonic unison. But there’s some truth to that. As a Gen-Yer myself, KID A hit the dazed and confused high-schooler in me like a ton of bricks, speaking to me in languages I didn’t even realize I could comprehend or understand. And, unlike the plethora of overwrought emo albums that also defined this period of my life, I never “outgrew” KID A. Rather, it - and my feelings *toward* it - grew with me. As I got older, its macabre tones took on different and more mature meanings. The sadness here is not hyperspecific; it is ubiquitous. It is the human condition. And, above all, it is immeasurably cathartic.
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