Ah, Radiohead. One of the bands I respect the most, but listen to the least. Not sure why, they just don't come across the airwaves for a girl who grew up in South Jersey and was schooled in Nashville. Sad, but true.
This is album #8 for the English rock band, and was released in just about every way currently possible: first as an MP3 or WAV download, then on CD and 12" vinyl, then finally as a wider digital release via AWAL. Oh, and a special "newspaper" edition was put out a little under a year ago.
In Rainbows, their last album, took a lot of time and painstaking effort to put together, and it has been called much more conventional in rock. This album was done with a "more spontaneous process," in which they sampled their own recordings with a turntable. They wouldn't talk much about it leading up, and still kept quiet until about eight months after the release. Regardless, it was nominated for five different Grammys this year, and made 2011 top lists all over the place.
Only eight tracks total on this album, making it one of the shortest running times of a Radiohead CD ever. "Bloom" kicks it off with this... well, the only way I can describe the opening is like an electronic soundtrack to a flower blooming. The drums come in for support and kind of create their own little sound (they did mentioned this is an album that focuses largely on percussion). About a minute in, the vocals begin. Okay, so they're not the most flattering part of the song thus far. I hate when a voice sounds like it just had dental work and the numbness hasn't worn off. It's all a very flow-y number, not really swelling too much on any particular beat, just allowing elements to overlap and take front here and there.
We get a little more of a classic rock sound with "Little By Little." We're still greeted by a pretty airy voice, but the backing music is great. There's a steady beat and interesting percussion styles, with a guitar giving its own melody that's really nice. The vocal, honestly, just sounds like another instrument without real words, but it blends just nicely enough to work out well. The turntable work has been blending in really nicely as well, lacking the usual obnoxious sound you can get with over-use of scratching. It's oddly relaxing and intriguing all at the same time.
"Feral" is just this odd mix of tones, with a backbeat. There's nothing outstanding here, as it all seems to be lacking some upfront point. There's no lyrics to guide thought, and the beats are just barely bass enough to warrant a club mix. It's just a constant repeat of something not very wonderful at all.
This one is the single and garnered the most professional attention. "Lotus Flower" has lyrics, but we're still on the very odd feel of an acid trip. It's got good movement to it, so much though that it can fade into the background without much notice - trust me, this is based on extremely recent experience. But there's a decent video to go with it... and here it is!
Nothing ever beats the sounds of the night, which are what lead us in to "Give Up The Ghost." It's just a cool sound of the outside at night, complete with crickets and birds. There's a simple bongo beat and guitar strum as we go. The only thing I can make out from the voice is that we're to gather 'round. Otherwise, the song just is gentle, almost reminiscent of an ocean breeze. THe ghost part seems to just be the background vocals that provide a light beat and sound far away.
The final song probably has the most a-typical drum beat for a rock song out of the whole album. "Separator" is probably also the most enjoyable song of the album, minus the echo-y vocals that could have just been straight and wonderful. The guitar hook and drum beat is fantastic though, making it clear that this is a rock band at the end of the day, and they can produce quality even while experimenting.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Little By Little"
- "Give Up The Ghost"