Radiohead is, to me, the best band in the world. Not only for their ability to continuously reinvent themselves and push the envelope of what’s possible, and palatable, in songwriting and sound design alike, but also for their ability to create a visceral representation of what the world feels like to me. They balance chaos with design, angst with ease, and darkness with beauty in a way that never fails to grab me by the bones. They inhabit the space between total control and wild recklessness… and what purity comes from that space! When this album was released, I listened to it without distraction several nights in a row, lying on my couch, dawning my favorite headphones while looking only at the void behind my eyelids. There, in that void, was projected the universality that's common to every worthwhile piece of art. Thom Yorke allows himself to writhe in the friction-laden hands of the world and then uses the energy found there to draw the circles that tie us all together.
Listen for the staccato social commentary wound together with the staccato strings on ‘Burn The Witch.’ Listen for the eerily reversed vocals and violins on ‘Daydreaming.’ Listen for tastefully repeated splatter of spring reverb at the end of ‘Decks Dark.’ Listen for the alien 7/4 meter on ‘Desert Island Disk’ and how it never really gives you the opportunity to settle in. Listen for the tornado of power on ‘Ful Stop’ and the seagulls, so reminiscent of Tomorrow Never Knows, swirling around that power. Listen for the crystalline piano and the sounds of rosin on ‘Glass Eyes.’ Listen for the reverberant backing vocals as they splash off a faraway liquid on ‘Identikit.’ Listen for the conversation between piano and strings on the second verse of ‘The Numbers,’ which has to be one of the most uplifting songs Radiohead has ever written. Listen for slow build of ‘Present Tense’ and the feeling of deliverance that waits on its faraway edge. Listen for the snare made out of white noise on ‘Tinker Tailor…’ and the unapologetic disorderliness that surrounds it. Listen for the hard-fought polyrhythms on ‘True Love Waits,’ a song that took twenty-one years to complete… the manner in which those rhythms interact exemplifies the manner in which individuals move with and against each other, through love. And then finally, listen for the few seconds of silence as the album fades into nothingness. Then start again.
Plus Sooooo Many Fantastic Honorable Mentions —
Kevin Morby - Singing Saw, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - Ears, Jenny Hval - Blood Bitch, The Avalanches - Wildflower, Blood Orange - Freetown Sound, Jamila Woods - Heavn, Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker, Agnes Obel - Citizen of Glass, Poliça - United Crushers, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree, Beyoncé - Lemonade, Ben Lukas Boysen - Spells, Kanye West - Life of Pablo, Nosaj Thing - No Reality, The Lumineers - Cleopatra, Yves Tumor - Serpent Music, Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition