Top Albums 2011: The Best

It’s been a long time coming, but hey, this is a very part time gig for me. Below are my favorite records of 2011. I think these are all pretty darn great.

        

5. Radiohead – The King of Limbs: If Radiohead is capable of making a "roots" record, then this is it. Rather than going to Nashville and getting all strummy though, Radiohead imports the outdoors mimetically. On "Bloom", the pianos unfold like flowers in a field. On "Magpie", the guitars jitter back and forth with the spasmic, angular rhythms of birds. Even "Lotus Flower", for its synthesized palette, rises pure and pristine out of the mess of the first half. All in all, The King of Limbs is meant to be heard as a whole, but there are two standalone gems here. The first, "Codex", is a mysterious masterpiece, all mood and gorgeous darkness, the washing away of all the electronic mud of the first five tracks. The second, "Give Up The Ghost", sets Yorke against singing birds, plucking out a little acoustic ditty while spectral voices beg for mercy. These are the human moments on a record otherwise given over to a strange synthesis of the electronic and the organic, where we set out in expectation of "a universal sigh." Still, one can’t forget that as a whole there is an unsettling element running through, an element reinforced all the way through the album’s final track: "If you think this is over then you’re wrong…" It’s that cover: the king of limbs bent over, coming for humanity with ghostly eyes, an apocalyptic terror anticipating a day of reckoning. TKOL is a manifesto of primal environmental vengeance. CF "God’s Grandeur"… (KEY TRACKS: "Bloom", “Lotus Flower”, "Codex", "Give Up The Ghost") (original review)

4. Kathryn Calder – Bright & Vivid: Bright & Vivid is Calder’s debut gone through the looking glass. It’s a study in contrasts through and through, from the dark album cover to the ambiguous title to the harsher musical textures featured. Thematically, where Calder dealt with the certainty of reality and personal identity on Are You My Mother?, she seems to be starting over here, searching for relevant first order questions rather than seeking answers. At one point, she questions "How many throats will be cut till I see/What is beyond the breach?" Calder’s object here, her addressee, seems disembodied, ghostly, a "silhouette" to use her own words. And her search is evident musically as well as lyrically. A typical structure on Bright & Vivid is to build from a sort of swirling ambience, to layer precisely plucked acoustic guitars on top of washes of distorted synth. Furthermore, she toys with musical distance, especially on the highlight "New Frame of Mind", giving the song three or more dimensions as it crashes forward in a final thrust – "We will run through it!" So if this record is all about a surrounding darkness, why the title Bright and Vivid? I can’t speak for Calder, but what I hear is a search for that bright and vivid thing, a place full of life and light, a presence beyond the vale of shadows and of loss. (KEY TRACKS: "Turn A Light On", "All The Things", "New Frame of Mind", "City Of Sounds") (original review)

3. Twin Sister – In Heaven: In Heaven is typical of indie pop these days: quirky and attractive female vocalist, mish-mash of a sound, ironically dance-worthy, bleepy/bloopy, and the list goes on. If it were any longer, it might be a mess. Its 10 songs though all sound like different concepts, as different as the population of a Brooklyn city block. From the spaghetti western lead guitar of "Gene Ciampi" to the pathos-laden synths of "Kimmi In A Rice Field", each tune is laced with something all its own. Lead vocalist Andrea Estella serves as the unifying force, injecting just enough sassy sweetness to put a personality on the whole thing, but the rest of the band deserves equal credit for a sort of restrained and studied hyper-creativity. The bottom line though is that, like Beach House’s masterpiece Teen Dream, this feels more like a mini-blockbuster with each additional listen. From the opening, lazy-morning vibes of "Daniel" to the far and away dream of "Eastern Green", every tune here is a nugget. I’m still puzzling over the album’s title to a degree, but the sounds are heavenly, beyond a doubt. For all of its surface silliness and bright textures, this is a deep and soulful record, a very human experience, a record that transfigures normal human emotions into something ecstatic. (KEY TRACKS: "Daniel", "Stop", "Kimmi", "Eastern Green") (original review)

2. Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto: Throughout their career, Coldplay have been dogged as copycats, sentimentalists, and purveyors of the bland. "Good music," saith their detractors, "has a harder edge, deals in stronger lyrics, doesn’t ape all those classic bands." Mention Coldplay to certain folks and you can almost hear eyes grating across hard bone, fed up immediately with the fact that the band hasn’t forsaken all for black metal or atonal experimentalism or just gotten miserable like everyone else. But do you remember when you fell in love with music? When that one song grabbed your heart and took you to another world? When you seemed to see the veils of heaven pulled back, the mysteries of reality revealed to you, the hope of all the ages flashed before your eyes, and you realized that escape might just be possible? Brother, that’s the record Coldplay have made with Mylo Xyloto. On their latest, Coldplay stand guilty of making a concept record of that period in life. Inspired largely by graffiti and The White Rose Movement (inspiring), Martin and his brothers are doing what we always hoped Radiohead and U2 would do: continuing the trajectory of their career into even grander stadium-size singalongs. Mylo Xyloto is an escapist masterpiece, pure and simple. If that’s not your cup of tea, then fine. It’s just that, in all honesty my good sir, you are missing out on something wonderful. (KEY TRACKS: "Hurts Like Heaven", "Charlie Brown", "Us Against the World", "Up in Flames") (original review)

1. Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong: "That special kind of sadness/That tragic set of charms" – with that bit of parallelism, Taylor Goldsmith encapsulates my love for this album. I’ve known of Dawes since their debut, a record that was a little too heavy on pathos for my taste. So what has changed? I can only speak to the evidence before me, but what I detect is a band that has broadened across multiple spectrums. Where North Hills was heavy on a pathetic sort of sadness, the sadness on Nothing Is Wrong is broader and more visceral. Truth be told, though, what really makes this album a classic is Goldsmith’s amazing way with a melody and lyrics. The playing is all good, don’t get me wrong, but Goldsmith just seems to flow through these tunes, channeling righteousness from The Band, Gram Parson, Jackson Browne, Adam Duritz, and Van Morrison into one entirely cohesive and tasty mix. Writing about it just sort of hurts, because the words can’t really capture the brilliance of the chorus on "Time Spent in Los Angeles" or the mountain-high bridge of "My Way Back Home" or the windows-down, high-plains harmonies of "Fire Away." There’s really nothing conceptually amazing about this record. It’s just a collection of perfect road tunes, a soundtrack for leaving it all behind. But isn’t that enough for greatness? (KEY TRACKS: "Time Spent in Los Angeles", "My Way Back Home", "Fire Away", "Million Dollar Bill") (original review)

====> Top Albums 2011: Honorable Mention
====> Top Albums 2010: The Best

Quick Review (LP): The King of Limbs by Radiohead

Radiohead
The King of Limbs
2011

My Rating: A (86/100)

Best Tracks: "Bloom", "Lotus Flower", "Codex", "Give Up The Ghost"

It’s a Radiohead LP – Fussy and Brilliant

Well, this one was bound to be a divider, but it has won me over. Yes, I’ll admit it was lost on me after my first few listens, but then again it took me several months to breakthrough with Kid A. Maybe I’m just one of those suckers who will fall for anything, but I really dig the fact that the overriding theme of this record, for all of its electric and industrial sheen, is the natural realm, pure and simple. (I can just see Thommy boy strolling through the post-apocalyptic forest with Mr. Bluebird on his shoulder.) Sonically, Limbs is a fantastic offering. True, it’s only 8-wide, but its octave of tracks forms a delightfully dense and spectral aural mist. Side B really steals the show, kicking off with the truly brilliant "Lotus Flower", followed up by the chillingly gorgeous "Codex," which might just be a better piano ballad than "Videotape." At this point, any one who expects Radiohead to make a predictable record needs to get a clue. While I’d love to get the guitar-heavy follow-up to OK Computer that I’ve been thirsting for since 1997, I’ve also learned to love the fact that Radiohead will never make the same record twice. The King of Limbs’ payoff is anything but immediate, yet for those who are willing to listen closely for the tender, the nuanced, and the elegaic, it is without a doubt one of the most rewarding records in the band’s catalog.

RANDOM NOTES:

– Perhaps The King of Limbs is the avenging angel of death on the cover, ready to get back at mankind for the mess we’ve made of things?
– Their most mellow record for sure.
– Reminds me of the Amnesiac b-sides, esp. "Kinetic" and "Fog."
– "If you think this is over then you’re wrong…" Please let that mean a follow-up is coming soon!

ATTRIBUTES

Consistency (4.5/5) – second half def. superior to first half
Cohesion (5/5) – frantic blended brilliantly with the slow and ominous
Consequence (4.5/5) – not as big a bang as OKC, Kid A, In Rainbows, but this IS Radiohead
Concept (5/5) – thematically excellent with nature motif
Songs (4.5/5) – too few!

OTHER REVIEWS:

Pitchfork
AMG
Josh Hurst
Metacritic

Suspending Judgment: The King Of Limbs by Radiohead

Radiohead fans have learned to bear patiently with the band over the course of their career. Ever since they trampled all over the “one hit wonder” label with The Bends, they’ve been completely defying the expectations of their audience with each successive album. Their last full-length, 2007’s In Rainbows, went far beyond expectations, proving the band was anything but short on inspiration. And so, at this point, waiting three and a half years for a new collection from the world’s greatest anti-rock band doesn’t seem like much to ask. We are assured that when Radiohead gets around to releasing something new, it will be brilliant, and well worth the wait.

Only I’m not so sure about The King Of Limbs yet…

I will stick with it for a long time before I give up on it, but I’ve listened to it a good seven or eight times since it was released last Friday, and I’m not convinced it measures up. A few thoughts:

  • It sounds more like what I would have expected from Thom Yorke as a second solo record, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The problem is that it doesn’t have the “massive” feel of the other Radiohead albums. It’s certainly not a “guitar” record.
  • There isn’t a “fireworks” track on this record. Think of “The National Anthem” or “Pyramid Song” or “There There” or “Reckoner.” There’s no moment of unfathomable greatness that explodes from the speakers, blowing your mind. Perhaps The King Of Limbs is more about restraint than catharsis.
  • Eight tracks? Surely there’s more where this came from?
  • I hate to say it, but many of the tracks seem like they would have been better as b-sides. Of course, Radiohead are a great b-sides band.
  • For crying out loud, will they ever release “Follow Me Around” and “Lift” as studio recordings?

I will say that The King Of Limbs is growing on me though. I don’t think it will ever measure up to In Rainbows or Kid A in my mind, but there’s at least one track that’s undeniably brilliant (“Codex”), and a handful of other lovely moments (“Give Up The Ghost”). I’m going to suspend judgment on this one until I’ve given it the hearing that Radiohead deserve.

Listening Log: New Radiohead Saturday

Thom Yorke Jonny Greenwood LP8

New Radiohead = Live-Blogging Event

I’ll be live-blogging my first-listen experience of Radiohead‘s new LP, The King of Limbs, on Saturday. Stop by and leave your thoughts!

Tracks of the Decade: “Everything In Its Right Place” by Radiohead

radiohead -eiirp“Everything In Its Right Place”
by Radiohead
from KID A (2000)

No surprises? On January 1, 2000, that’s the way the world felt. Planes didn’t fall out of the sky, nuclear meltdowns didn’t riddle the globe, and the infrastructure didn’t collapse, not even a hair. Nope, no surprises there, but I’d argue that there wasn’t any greater surprise than the opening track to Radiohead’s millenial masterpiece KID A, released later that year. The warm tones of the electric piano seemed more likely to lull us to sleep than crown rock and roll’s next magnum opus, but with Yorke’s distorted vocals fading in the fact that this was Radiohead kept us hanging on. What in tarnation did Yorke mean that he “woke up sucking a lemon?” Speculations abounded, but we all kept thumping along with that bass beat, looking for a pair of headphones so we behold the full glory of the track, howling electronic ghosts and all. Right about when Yorke rambled about “two colors” in his head and “what was it you tried to say” the song attained an apocalyptic urgency, unmatched since. The old had passed, the new had come. With “Everything In Its Right Place”, Radiohead boldly proclaimed: “the new millenium has begun, and lo, it is the same as it ever was.”

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks 3-1

3. “Cuttooth” from the KNIVES OUT singles: Bearing one of the most strangely enticing song titles in the band’s catalog, this one comes straight from the depths of the KID A sessions. It’s a piece of shimmering, propulsive Krautrock that shows Radiohead pretty much mastering the genre overnight. While it’s all for the best that they moved on, and although “Cuttooth” bears the sunny glow that reasonably excluded it from KID A or AMNESIAC, it’s nevertheless one of the coolest things the band has ever recorded. With “Cuttooth”, Radiohead joined the ranks of artists like Springsteen and Pavement, where the myth of lost tracks began to rival the myth of the albums.
2. “Pearly*” from the PARANOID ANDROID singles: Although ultimately it doesn’t feel right at this point to question the band’s judgment on the tracklisting for OK COMPUTER, it still makes me scratch my head that this one was left off that album in favor of “Electioneering.” Featuring similar subject matter and a similar sonic trajectory, “Pearly*” is far more exotic and otherworldly, once again featuring some marvelous instrumentation from both the guitar and the drum sections. “Pearly*” is the “Maquiladora” of OK COMPUTER. Seriously, couldn’t they have made room for just one more?
1. “Talk Show Host (Nellee Hooper mix)” from the ROMEO AND JULIET soundtrack: Some might argue with the fact that I chose a cinematic cut-up of “Talk Show Host” as the band’s number one non-album track, but Nellee Hooper’s remix just gets it right. Go back and listen to the version from the STREET SPIRIT single and see for yourself. The bass and drums are just a little too aggressive, a little too direct. But Hooper expertly brings trip-hop subtleties to bear on the song’s bare bones, exposing the emotional heart of the song, and fleshing out a cinematic and musical masterpiece in the process. Don’t settle for the original in this case; Hooper’s remix is the real deal.

Radiohead_knivesout3. “Cuttooth” from the KNIVES OUT singles: Bearing one of the most strangely enticing song titles in the band’s catalog, this one comes straight from the depths of the KID A sessions. It’s a piece of shimmering, propulsive Krautrock that shows Radiohead pretty much mastering the genre overnight. While it’s all for the best that they moved on, and although “Cuttooth” bears the sunny glow that reasonably excluded it from KID A or AMNESIAC, it’s nevertheless one of the coolest things the band has ever recorded. With “Cuttooth”, Radiohead joined the ranks of artists like Springsteen and Pavement, where the myth of lost tracks began to rival the myth of the albums.

Paranoid_Android_CD12. “Pearly*” from the PARANOID ANDROID singles: Although ultimately it doesn’t feel right at this point to question the band’s judgment on the tracklisting for OK COMPUTER, it still makes me scratch my head that this one was left off that album in favor of “Electioneering.” Featuring similar subject matter and a similar sonic trajectory, “Pearly*” is far more exotic and otherworldly, once again featuring some marvelous instrumentation from both the guitar and the drum sections. “Pearly*” is the “Maquiladora” of OK COMPUTER. Seriously, couldn’t they have made room for just one more?

Romeo_+_Juliet_Soundtrack_Vol._11. “Talk Show Host (Nellee Hooper mix)” from the ROMEO AND JULIET soundtrack: Some might argue with the fact that I chose a cinematic cut-up of “Talk Show Host” as the band’s number one non-album track, but Nellee Hooper’s remix just gets it right. Go back and listen to the version from the STREET SPIRIT single and see for yourself. The bass and drums are just a little too aggressive, a little too direct. But Hooper expertly brings trip-hop subtleties to bear on the song’s bare bones, exposing the emotional heart of the song, and fleshing out a cinematic and musical masterpiece in the process. Don’t settle for the original in this case; Hooper’s remix is the real deal.

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks 6-4

6. “Four Minute Warning” from IN RAINBOWS CD2: I think this track may have been the one Ed referred to as “Bombers” during the KID A sessions. Can’t be sure, but nevertheless, it’s one of the best songs the band has recorded period. It might have closed out IN RAINBOWS just as easily as “Videotape”, the white-noise fade-in evoking a cinematic landscape of bravenewworld devastation. Coming from the same subconscious goldmine that gave us “Pyramid Song”, the lyrics and music working together to evoke a similar slow-motion waking dream. Proof positive that Radiohead needs to record an album of piano-based ballads.
5. “Maquiladora” from HIGH AND DRY SINGLES:  Taking second place only to “Just” as the most in-your-face brit rock track in the band’s repertoire, “Maquiladora” is another b-side that “might have been a hit” for the band during THE BENDS era. With Jonny G.’s incendiary lead and the explosive refrain “Oh – BAY – BAH – BURN!!!!!”, this is the sort of track that the band should still be rolling out as an encore every once in a while. Also priceless – the clean cut breakdown (aka the pretty part) between the episodes of thundering heaviness. Simply brilliant all around.
4. “A Reminder” from PARANOID ANDROID SINGLES: Once considered as the lead-off single for OK COMPUTER, this one didn’t make it onto the album proper, but still stands as one of the strongest examples of the band’s aesthetic at that time. Slowly building around a locomotive drive, it’s an obtuse little love song, evocative of a train trek across the sub-continent of Europe in the prime of one’s youth (this is helped by the actual sounds of a Czech rail station opening the song). Like Richard Linklater’s BEFORE SUNRISE, the song’s narrative revolves around two people, the speaker and the addressee. Highly personal and minimally detailed, it nevertheless expresses a deep romanticism that the band hasn’t quite achieved since.

Radiohead_Nude6. “Four Minute Warning” from the NUDE singles: I think this track may have been the one Ed referred to as “Bombers” during the KID A sessions. Can’t be sure, but nevertheless, it’s one of the best songs the band has recorded period. It might have closed out IN RAINBOWS just as easily as “Videotape”, the white-noise fade-in evoking a cinematic landscape of bravenewworld devastation. Coming from the same subconscious goldmine that gave us “Pyramid Song”, the lyrics and music work together to evoke a similar slow-motion waking dream. Proof positive that Radiohead needs to record an album of piano-based ballads.

High_and_Dry_Planet_Telex_CD15. “Maquiladora” from the HIGH AND DRY singles:  Taking second place only to “Just” as the most in-your-face brit rock track in the band’s repertoire, “Maquiladora” is another b-side that “might have been a hit” for the band during THE BENDS era. With Jonny G.’s incendiary lead and the explosive refrain “Oh – BAY – BAH – BURN!!!!!”, this is the sort of track that the band should still be rolling out as an encore every once in a while. Also priceless – the clean cut breakdown (aka the pretty part) between the episodes of thundering heaviness. Simply brilliant all around.

Paranoid_Android_CD14. “A Reminder” from the PARANOID ANDROID singles: Once considered as the lead-off single for OK COMPUTER, this one didn’t make it onto the album proper, but still stands as one of the strongest examples of the band’s aesthetic at that time. Slowly building around a locomotive drive, it’s an obtuse little love song, evocative of a train trek across the sub-continent of Europe in the prime of one’s youth (this is helped by the actual sounds of a Czech rail station opening the song). Vaguely recalling Richard Linklater’s film BEFORE SUNRISE, the song’s narrative revolves around the hopes and fears of two young people intimately connected for a moment in time. Highly personal and minimally detailed, it nevertheless expresses a deep romanticism that the band hasn’t quite achieved since.

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks, 9-7

9. “Lull” from KARMA POLICE SINGLES: You could argue that some of Radiohead’s best b-sides might have replaced tracks on some of their albums. “Lull” isn’t really like that. Recorded during the OK COMPUTER-era, its closest kin is the far superior “Let Down.” No, the charm of “Lull” lies precisely in its qualities as a throw-away. Unlike other b-sides of the era, it features appregio guitar progressions rather than Jonny’s inflammatory work and a wonderfully upbeat melody. “Lull” is all musical efficiency, as if written by Radiohead for a songwriting workshop. So there you go – the “Lull” referred to is a case of writer’s block. If only every band’s creative lull sounded this good.
8. “Kinetic” from PYRAMID SONG SINGLES: Mentioned early and often in Ed O’Brien’s journals during the KID A sessions, the glacial pace of “Kinetic” speaks volumes on Radiohead’s new approach to making music. How many bands would name a song “Kinetic” and leave it in first gear? What’s really great about this track though is how it reveals the creative process that led to the first great album of the new millenium. No guitars. No backbeats. Just go to your dark place, kids. All in all, an aural feast.
7. “How Can You Be Sure?” from FAKE PLASTIC TREES SINGLES: HCYBS must have been a strong contender for inclusion on THE BENDS. It features one of the grandest pop melodies in the band’s catalog, and comes close to the acoustic glory of “Fake Plastic Trees” and “(nice dream).” The ?female? vocals that accompany Thom are a rather nice touch, the sort of thing the band might explore again if they ever do find their happy place. File this one under “might have been a hit.”

KarmaPolice9. “Lull” from KARMA POLICE SINGLES: You could argue that some of Radiohead’s best b-sides might have replaced tracks on some of their albums. “Lull” isn’t really like that. Recorded during the OK COMPUTER-era, its closest kin is the far superior “Let Down.” No, the charm of “Lull” lies precisely in its qualities as a throw-away. Unlike other b-sides of the era, it features appregio guitar progressions rather than Jonny’s inflammatory work and a wonderfully upbeat melody. “Lull” is all musical efficiency, as if written by Radiohead for a songwriting workshop. So there you go – the “Lull” referred to is a case of writer’s block. If only every band’s creative lull sounded this good.

Radiohead_pyramidsong8. “Kinetic” from PYRAMID SONG SINGLES: Mentioned early and often in Ed O’Brien’s journals during the KID A sessions, the glacial pace of “Kinetic” speaks volumes on Radiohead’s new approach to making music. How many bands would name a song “Kinetic” and leave it in first gear? What’s really great about this track though is how it reveals the creative process that led to the first great album of the new millenium. No guitars. No backbeats. Just go to your dark place, kids. All in all, an aural feast.

Fakeplastictrees1

7. “How Can You Be Sure?” from FAKE PLASTIC TREES SINGLES: HCYBS must have been a strong contender for inclusion on THE BENDS. It features one of the grandest pop melodies in the band’s catalog, and comes close to the acoustic glory of “Fake Plastic Trees” and “(nice dream).” The ?female? vocals that accompany Thom are a rather nice touch, the sort of thing the band might explore again if they ever do find their happy place. File this one under “might have been a hit.”

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks, 12-10

12. “Palo Alto” from AIRBAG/HOW AM I DRIVING? EP: Originally titled “OK Computer”, this track might have birthed the creative concepts behind the homonymous album. Encapsulating many of the same themes, it immediately evokes the false pleasantries of THE TRUMAN SHOW as Yorke greets the listener “I’m OK/How are you/Thanks for asking/Thanks for asking.” Still, underneath it all is Yorke’s old nemesis, the omnipresent fridge buzz. “In the city of the future/It is difficult to concentrate.” It also shines as one of the most chipper mid-tempo rockers in the band’s repertoire, effecting a Beatles-esque glee through Jonny’s noodly leads. Simultaneously a chunky guitar fest and an effects-laden dreamscape, it evokes the best of The Bends AND OK Computer in one little track. Muy bueno.
11. “Last Flowers” from IN RAINBOWS CD2: A mysterious tune that’s been floating around since the days of OK Computer, it didn’t see the light of day for nearly ten years. Through all the changes for the band, this comes across as one of their most sober and lovely little tracks, and proves that when you strip away all the bells and whistles, what you have is a great band of musicians in the most timeless sense. Featuring some of Yorke’s most emotionally potent lyrics (“You can offer me scape…if you take me there you’ll get relief”), its arguably his most disarming performance since another great b-side, “How I Made My Millions.” It can be easy to forget that so many of us fell for Radiohead because of their weepier stuff – “Fake Plastic Trees,” “High and Dry” – but this lost beauty brings it all back home.
10. “Fog” from KNIVES OUT SINGLES: Introducted to the world via concert in 2001 as a “silly little song,” this lullabye about humans as sewer gators is quite simply one of the most obtuse and artful tracks by any band ever, a whimsical ode to lost innocence. Although it seems to come across as a throwaway, it features one of the best melodies in the band’s catalog, and works itself into a great jam at the end, featuring everything but the kitchen sink. Bonus points here for the stark visuals drawn by the music, proving once again that Radiohead is great because they think in like, I don’t know, five or six dimensions.

Airbag12. “Palo Alto” from AIRBAG/HOW AM I DRIVING? EP: Originally titled “OK Computer”, this track might have birthed the creative concepts behind the homonymous album. Encapsulating many of the same themes, it immediately evokes the false pleasantries of THE TRUMAN SHOW as Yorke greets the listener “I’m OK/How are you/Thanks for asking/Thanks for asking.” Still, underneath it all is Yorke’s old nemesis, the omnipresent fridge buzz. “In the city of the future/It is difficult to concentrate.” It also shines as one of the most chipper mid-tempo rockers in the band’s repertoire, effecting a Beatles-esque glee through Jonny’s noodly leads. Simultaneously a chunky guitar fest and an effects-laden dreamscape, it evokes the best of The Bends AND OK Computer in one little track. Muy bueno.

17563562-17563565-slarge11. “Last Flowers” from IN RAINBOWS CD2: A mysterious tune that’s been floating around since the OK COMPUTER-era, it didn’t see the light of day for nearly ten years. Through all the changes for the band, this comes across as one of their most sober and lovely little tracks, and proves that when you strip away all the bells and whistles, what you have is a great band of musicians in the most timeless sense. Featuring some of Yorke’s most emotionally potent lyrics (“You can offer me escape…if you take me there you’ll get relief”), its arguably his most disarming performance since another great b-side, “How I Made My Millions.” It can be easy to forget that so many of us fell for Radiohead because of their weepier stuff – “Fake Plastic Trees,” “High and Dry” – but this lost beauty brings it all back home.

Radiohead_knivesout10. “Fog” from KNIVES OUT SINGLES: Introducted to the world via concert in 2001 as a “silly little song,” this lullabye about humans as sewer gators is quite simply one of the most obtuse and artful tracks by any band ever, a whimsical ode to lost innocence. Although it seems to come across as a throwaway, it features one of the best melodies in the band’s catalog, and works itself into a great jam at the end, featuring everything but the kitchen sink. Bonus points here for the stark visuals drawn by the music, proving once again that Radiohead is great because they think in like, I don’t know, five or six dimensions.

Radiohead: Top 12 Non-Album Tracks

One of the things that makes Radiohead such a fantastic band is their propensity for greatness in the realm of non-album tracks. They frequently kick out the jamz with the extracurriculars, and for the casual fan looking to dive further into the Radiohead sound, there is a veritable smorgasbord of great back tracks.
Over the next four days, I’ll explain my choices, but I don’t see any reason not to go ahead and post my top twelve. Of course, there’s quite a few it was hard to leave off, and I’m a bit amazed myself that nothing from the MY IRON LUNG EP made it onto the list. Still, that’s the kind of quality we’re talking about here.
12. Palo Alto
11. Last Flowers
10. Fog
9. Lull
8. Kinetic
7. How Can You Be Sure?
6. Four Minute Warning
5. Maquiladora
4. A Reminder
3. Cuttooth
2. Pearly*
1. Talk Show Host (Nellee Hooper mix)
Have I unjustly smited your personal faves? What’s in your top 12, o argumentative Head-head?

quasar_radiohead3One of the things that makes Radiohead such a fantastic band is their propensity for greatness in the realm of non-album tracks. They frequently kick out the jamz with the extracurriculars, and for the casual fan looking to dive further into the Radiohead sound, there is a veritable smorgasbord of great back tracks.

Over the next four days, I’ll explain my choices, but I don’t see any reason not to go ahead and post my top twelve. Of course, there’s quite a few it was hard to leave off, and I’m a bit amazed myself that nothing from the MY IRON LUNG EP made it onto the list. Still, that’s the kind of quality we’re talking about here.

12. Palo Alto
11. Last Flowers
10. Fog
9. Lull
8. Kinetic
7. How Can You Be Sure?
6. Four Minute Warning
5. Maquiladora
4. A Reminder
3. Cuttooth
2. Pearly*
1. Talk Show Host (Nellee Hooper mix)

Have I unjustly smited your personal faves? What’s in your top 12, o argumentative Head-head?