Rarely has there been a band more deserved of the acclaim that Radiohead has garnered over their long, ever evolving career. Once considered one hit wonders, that early success forced them to challenge and view music as something ever changing and wondrous. Today we discuss a newly reworked top ten of what I consider to be among their best songs. Plenty are likely to disagree on certain aspects, but Radiohead for me is among the bands that reflect the listener, which is just ani]other way of saying different people found and clicked with them at different points. Either way, I hope you enjoy reading, and consider sharing your thoughts.
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10 TRUE LOVE WAITS: A MOON SHAPED POOL
At number ten, we have what very well might be the saddest song created by Yorke and company thus far in their career. A long coveted B side that finally made it to an official album, “True Love Waits” is indeed a heartbreaker of a track. Finishing up an emotionally brutal and messy album, it lingers in your bones as Yorke recalls “I’m Not living, I’m just killing time.” the stillness is something you notice almost from the outset. The song can mean many things for many people, but the extent to which the band conveys general sadness with just a voice and a solemn piano layered background is testament to the energy of the group. It’s heartbreaking to think about, but the message is an overwhelming positive one, you just have to get through the pain of losing your true love, in whatever way you can.
9 NUDE: IN RAINBOWS
One of the prettiest songs ever heard from the band, until of course you start to listen to the lyrics. That’s one of the many things Radiohead does well as a band. The music, while often sublime, and even uplifting, is still able to get the listener to open their eyes to the whole truth surrounding any particular song. “Nude” does this brilliantly. It’s a song that seems confident and strong, but the underlying gloom of the song makes it more palpable in terms of fear and desperation. Among all of that though, it still somehow manages to come across as a sultry and provocative song that is as much about anger as it is passion. When Yorke sings the words “You’ll go to hell for what Your dirty mind is thinking,” you can sense the frustration and unhappiness surrounding whatever issue is happening in the narrative of the song.
8 AIRBAG: OK COMPUTER
I’d have to think for a moment should i try to figure out a better, more pronounced album opener than “Airbag,” which joins us at number eight. Airbags can act as sort of alarms at times, but its already too late. In that way it makes sense for this as the beginning of the record. It signifies that things have already broken down, from there bringing us into a thickly guitarred presence, Yorke’s whirlwind voice bouncing off the mix in a clear yet chaotic manner. The visuals are mesmerizing, but again it's just the beginning. “Airbag” is a fan favorite for many, and because of its success as the jumping off point of a perfect record, as well as just a great song to sing along to, it's hard not to include here.
7 WEIRD FISHES: IN RAINBOWS
The drum sets the groove, sexy tone right away, but this song isn't sexy at all. Perhaps the feel and vibe of the song is, but the lyrics are tensely sad and thought provoking. Thom Yorke is one of those singers who can make you feel anything he wants when he wants. The background vocals as the music picks up get to me everytime. These dudes know how to perfectly mix a song. " Everybody leaves if they get the chance," is a punch to the stomach that struggles with the realization that life isn't always going to be good, but somehow you have to keep going, keep trying to figure out the puzzle.
6 LUCKY: OK COMPUTER
Another of the great openings from “OKC,” the Floyd-esque atmosphere of the track fills a space with natural harmonics and guitar sections that blow you away.. I love the way Yorke is singing amid a slight guitar part, and then it’s almost as if the Greenwoods, O”Brien and Selway envelop him in an ocean of sunlight. The textures are also intricately played and mixed. Even now, this album is still decades ahead of anything currently happening in music, due in part to killer arena rock tracks like “Lucky.” There’s a reason this has been called the album of the 90’s. It’s easily my pick for the honor, and every time you go back to it, you understand why a bit more.
5 HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY: KID A
The opening line "That there, that's not me," has always struck me as a pretty funny line, but the underlying tone of the song is anything but humorous. This person appears as though he's thrilled that no one notices him, but is that the case? He could potentially be faking it. Maybe the years of isolation have turned him into a person who loves not being recognized, or even acknowledged. Who could live this way though? That's why the song is so upsetting to me. In the end though, the instruments do as much for the overall dreadful, upsetting vibe as the lyrics do. It just seems like this person has no hold over his own life, and that might be the saddest thing of all. A haunting song that sees Radiohead at their most somber, and their best.
4 FAKE PLASTIC TREES: THE BENDS
Always a favorite of mine. Its tenderness and compassion always had a lasting effect on me. Everything for me changed though when I saw them at Lollapalooza. The end of the set was nearing, and the song started. Behind them however, very light, soft fireworks built up (We found out later the fireworks were from a Cubs game). As the song progressed, the explosions got more intense and by the time the big ending hit, we were singing, and marveling at the unprepared perfection of the situation. There's not a lot in the world that beats crying in a field, singing a song you've loved for years and being surrounded by 100,00 people who feel the same.
3 IDIOTEQUE: KID A
This song, but the whole album especially, was the first time I think most people realized that not only could electronic music make it in the mainstream, but it could also be intelligent and thought provoking. Sure, people have always loved electronic music, but obviously Aphex Twin and the Chemical Brothers weren't selling out stadiums left and right, at least not in the States. This song also proved that as a band, Radiohead could do anything and pull it off. If “OK Computer” is the best album of the 1990's, then surely this album, which is better, and probably the best they've done, is the best album of the 2000's.
2 PARANOID ANDROID: OK COMPUTER
This could very easily be their best known song, and if you’ve been living under a rock for over twenty years, please do yourself a favor and seek out the animated video. I had of course heard of the band before, but this was when they knocked the wind out me. The craziness of the song and the places it goes, as well as the sheer genius of the musicianship set it apart from every other band out there at that moment, and for the most part, it still does. When the song takes a crazy turn, as you the listener are right there prepared to hold on for dear life, and for me, that's where the realness and amazing qualities of the song truly burst out.
1 PYRAMID SONG: AMNESIAC
Never have I been so captivated by a music video before, or since. It's calming, majestic and haunting. Everything the song ultimately is. It’s a rare thing for something in space and time to sync up so vividly and ambiently wonderful, but this song does so with ease. I mean, when you watch this clip, and you see the lone diver visiting subterranean worlds enveloped by liquid, you can’t take your eyes off it. But, let’s also mention this otherworldly track. When the album first came out, this song instantly struck a chord with me. For years upbeat was the name of the game for me, but this song did, and still does fill me with joy, and a sense of knowledge that human beings are capable of amazing things. The textural components work well with Selway’s casually precise drumming, and Yorke’s wandering, unsure voice provide even more depth to this new world. It’s eye-catching, in every sort of way, and that’s why I love it.
The Cure have always been one of those bands that people had been exposed to. They have a massive following, which is great considering they haven’t made the most amazing records lately. That said, the live show is something to marvel at. Regularly playing three hour plus shows, this band is a behemoth onstage. They still sound exactly the same as the voices and music we’ve all heard on classics like “Disintegration,” “Boy’s Don’t Cry,” and “Pornography.”
The Cure remain not only one of the most interesting bands in alternative rock history, but they are still making music and inspiring bands to get a little bit dark. This list mostly draws from the better known albums, but it works out that way simply because those are the best, in my opinion. Hope you enjoy it!
10 THE HANGING GARDEN: PORNOGRAPHY
Opening this top ten list is a classic goth masterpiece from Robert Smith and the Gang. His trademark voice is sharp as nails, with mythical elements and occurrences filling up the vocal portion. It brings images not of a lush garden, but of a nightmarish fire sweeping across the lattice work of a once plentiful world. Still yet the drums are manic and disorienting, and ultimately are the driving force (no pun intended) behind the tracks excellence.
9 PRAYERS FOR RAIN: DISINTEGRATION
Like peeking through a looking glass to observe a harsh cold world , “Prayers for Rain” hits on all manner of doom and gloom over the course of the six minute run time. The guitar section is thick and lustrous, with the lyrical element showing a more hostile, agitated Smith than we’re accustomed to. One of the best things about the band's work is how well the mixing always is. You hear certain elements, sure, but it fits in in a sort of disorienting way, which is to say it muddies the waters and showcases the feeling of the tenseness in the song, while still proving to be an emotional metaphor filled track.
8 IF ONLY TONIGHT WE COULD SLEEP: KISS ME, KISS ME, KISS ME
The song clearly has an off-world oriental feel, but for a band from bloody England, it’s not the easiest thing to accomplish. “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep” is a slow-moving journey through unknown territories, showcasing the band’s ability to move with ease from one section to the next. The song is very much an adventure, albeit an adventure into dark terrains of the heart of a disimpassioned person. This band relies so much on shadowy nuance, but the tension in “..Sleep” is palpable and ever present.
7 THE END OF THE WORLD: THE CURE
This might come as a surprise of sorts, but it felt important to include a later song to the list. This album gets more slack than I think is warranted, but by this time the Cure had already cemented their rock n roll status. Smith's voice is more clear here than one other featured tracks, and the instrumentation is polished and glossed in a manner that actually helps the band more than you’d think. At number seven, the thoroughly underrated “The End of the World.”
6 FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE: WISH
What’s not to love about this classic early 90’s lovelorn anthem? For starters, not much to be honest. The song is firmly outside the scope of what you might expect from the darkness, yet it works well in a catalog dedicated to the shrouds of the world. It could be construed as a weekend warrior anthem, although to me it speaks more as a freeing type of song. The regrets of the past slip away as we become our true selves, unburdened by the weight of everything else. If those things speak to you, there’s still a happy go lucky sounding song underneath all our life’s burdens.
5 ONE HUNDRED YEARS: PORNOGRAPHY
The first time I ever heard this, I was fittingly at a very dark gothic bar. The beat is quite pulsing, and it feels like something you would hear in a dark forest on the show “Twin Peaks.” It’s just a spooky song. Now, I haven’t heard every Cure record, but this is still one of the more sinister songs in their catalog. I imagine a helpless woman meandering through long hallways, lost and trying to find her way out while strobe lights are going, complicating the situation. This is also the first song on the album, so you kind of get the vibe they were going for with this. This isn’t a pretty, romantic Cure album. This was something more dark and unnerving, and something I wished the band would do more.
4 BURN: THE CROW SOUNDTRACK
Since the first listen, I’ve been devoted to this song. The movie is still great, and the song is easily one of the highlights of this often overlooked soundtrack. At their Voodoo Music Experience performance, this band performed “Burn” for the first time ever. That is a big deal in itself, but when bands play songs that are over 10 years, going on nearly twenty years old, that is a big deal. For a fan of both the film, and the song, it was the highlight of their whole set.From the opening notes of the whistle, to the deliberate drumming, this is the perfect choice for this list. It’s not a Cure song you hear mentioned often, but it really should be. Even after probably two hundred listens throughout my life, I still love it, and if you haven’t heard it and are a fan of the band, I suggest you check it out. You’re going to love this song
3 BOYS DON’T CRY: THREE IMAGINARY BOYS
I thought this song was from their first album, but apparently I was wrong. Created as nothing more than a single and then released on the United States equivalent of their first album(Three Imaginary Boys),this gem crowded the airwaves and is still a staple among post rock circles. Initially, I had no idea it was the Cure at all. For some reason, my fourteen year old mind thought it was Joy Division or something in that vein. Now I look back and realize that though Joy Division, and especially Peter Hook are amazing, the Cure are just better. This is still a staple of the times, and it’s not hard to see why. The song has a certain masculinity to it, even in the face of the more feminine undertones, and it is just a great song.
2 PICTURES OF YOU: DISINTEGRATION
So many of the band's songs, especially on this album, use the chimes as an instrument that really does add a depth of fantasy and romanticism to it. There’s a reason why Kyle explains in South Park that “Disintegration is the best album ever!” It really fucking might be. It took the Cure to a level of mythological proportions, and it’s still the best thing the band has ever done. This song, found at number five on our list, is another sad reminder that love can die just as it was born. The sound has a lush, thick template at its base, and the raw sound of Smith’s voice only help to make the song better.
1 FASCINATION STREET: DISINTEGRATION
So many of their songs have a story telling quality without actually telling a story, and this is the song that best exemplifies that. I imagine a smoky street, slight rain coming down. Picture Times Square in the 80’s, at the heart and center of its seediness and shadowy underbelly. On “Fascination Street,” things are always interesting, but never reach good times. The bass parts through the song are very important to the overall cautiousness of the song. You can also sense the desperation in Smith’s vocals, and it really ties the song together. What I like most about the song is its ability to keep going through wall after wall of pure sound, adding and subtracting layers as the machine sees fit. Not to be lame, but it’s a fascinating song full of moral quandaries and questionable content, and of course, a song from the timeless “Disintegration” has to be the number one on this list.
Guilty Pleasures. We all have them, whether or not we choose to admit it, in various forms of entertainment. Why are they called “Guilty Pleasures though?” Yes we enjoy them, but should we feel bad about our entertainment options? In short, today’s entry won’t be super long, or have scientific research to back it up. Quite simply, I’m going to share my thoughts and feelings on why the term exists, and why I think it’s silly and unfair.
If you;ve been following my instagram posts over at @thedeathofthemixtape, you’ll know this week is my unofficial “Guilty Pleasures” week. I bring this up as a point of reference, not only because my weekly mixtape was themed “GUILT,” but more importantly because all the songs featured are genuinely good songs, that most folks wouldn’t openly admit to liking.
For instance, take a song like “Mandy” from the classic crooner Barry Manilow. Sure it's cheesy as hell, but the song itself is filled with emotional currents of regret, sadness and all the other somber tones that made the song so memorable and popular in the first place.
One the other hand though, you have artists like Kiss or Disturbed. You might say to yourself, those bands are way past their primes, and you;d be correct, but that doesn't mean they dont have at least one good song. That to me is the damage of acknowledging things as Guilty Pleasures.” For the record, no i don’t think Distubed, Kiss or even other mixtape included bands like Dave Matthews are inherently good bands (they aren’t), but it doesn mean that certain songs have a way of latching on to you and delivering a great moment on music, even if its few and far between.
You might be wondering- what am I working towards here? WELL, my point is that in this day and age, fan bases and genres are starting to merge, and become obscured. People aren’t just sticking to one style or genre, but exploring everything. It’s much easier to go down unfamiliar paths and find great artists. This is helped greatly by how easy it is to get new music, and also to music festivals that push the boundaries of the types of acts they stick together. I once saw Public Enemy, Phish, the Dillinger Escape Plan, and Bon Iver in a weekend. That simply would not have happened twenty years ago.
Years ago I spent a weekend at my sister's wedding, and being a groomsman I was with the groom's family for a significant portion of the time, and one thing stuck out to me. In the limo, on the way from the church, I found myself with multiple grown men… dancing and singing along to “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift. Unabashed, thrilled, and fun. Now I’ve grown love Taylor Swift, but back then they already loved the song. This is why the term “Guilty Pleasures” is both unfair and bullshit. In truth I’ve thought about this for a long time.
I’ve been told I myself have GP’s for a long time and I've Always defended them. I have a certain penchant for Romantic Comedies starring African American casts. I love them, just like I love bands that you would think wouldn't be caught dead listening to. I’ve also unproudly spent the majority of the last year watching every Wrestle Mania and Royal Rumble (it was the pandemic yall, cut me a break). My point is, no one should be ashamed of where they get their pleasure from, especially in forms of entertainment. Yes I may think some choices are simply not of good quality, but who am I to tell anyone they should feel bad for liking it. I’m the guy that happens to like death metal such as Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, but I also LOVE Sade, “Two can Play that Game,” and even Taylor Swift. They bring me joy and pleasure in various ways, and i don’t give a shit if you think a man who is of a certain age can’t like things that might not be the norm.
The too long didn’t read of this article for too long is this: Who cares what anyone thinks about what you like. You do you, and enjoy what you want. Life is short, and we’re all allowed to like what we want, even if it’s not expected. Thanks for reading!
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Fifteen years ago, an electronic album was released that not only redefined what was possible in the scope of the genre, but was far reaching in its logic of what could be a thinking man’s EDM record. Many artists are similarly ahead of their time, but rarely these days does an album surface that is and has remained as far ahead of the curve now as it was then. Come with us as we explore the cold energy of the magnum opus from Swedish siblings, “Silent Shout” by the Knife.
It was a rainy night in Louisiana, and my friends and I were on our way from New Orleans back two hours west, to Lafayette, Louisiana after seeing a show. My ride, Jules, had asked earlier if I had ever listened to the Knife before.I hadn’t really gotten into the band but upon being shown their lavish yet at times sparse beats i was hooked.
Almost from the opening beats of the scintillating title track, you can tell it’s very different from most of the electronic music around. The beats are slow, cold and atmospheric, from a distant planet, and it perfectly sets the mood for any late night adventure where you have no idea when or where the road will end. Following the opening track, we’re invited to a world where everything exists as a possibility and this type of music is the only thing you need to get by.
“Silent Shout” sends you to a cold, futuristic world, with the rare exception of the more upbeat second track “Neverland.” Not many albums, especially electronic ones can make you feel alone, and minimal, but “Shout” triumphantly makes the distant world bearable in a way most other albums simply can not. The beats emanating from the speakers as “The Captain” slowly bleeds into your system like a trickling, slow growing excitement are perfect. Karin Dreijer Andersson and her brother Olof manage to construct not only a thought provoking record that can be many things all at once, but also can bring you new sounds and worlds we hadn’t seen in this type of music.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “We Share our Mother's Health.” The beat is rocking in a way most of the other tracks just aren’t. Karin’s voice is deliberate and weaves in and out like a worm. In a good way though. My former wife and I liked the band so much we even dressed up as the Knife for Halloween one year. It was pretty great, but barely anyone knew who we were. Obviously
The next highlight on “Silent Shout” comes in the form of a beautifully down tempo gem known as “Marble House.” Much like the lyrics in the song, it’s a journey of epic proportions, and the author of the song is yearning for a new start, or perhaps it’s all happening in a parallel universe. With this band, things are rarely cut and dry, but this song has such a stronger story to it that I can’t help but be attracted to it. “Marble House'' is where the band really shines, and I would gladly go on listening to this amazing track over and over again, but the album has so many tricks up its sleeve it would be silly to dedicate your life to just one track.
“Like a Pen”, the next track begins with what I’ve always thought of as the sound of a bubble popping and it’s one of the few songs found here that resembles anything else happening in the edm scene. That’s not to say the song is bad by any means, but if the Knife were to decide to make lame electronic music they could easily do it. They have the ability to appeal to large masses, but I get the impression they take music extremely seriously, and could easily still be doing what they do without any notice from the outside world.
The Knife’s “Silent Shout” not only remains one of the best albums of the aughts, but also demonstrates how interesting and thought provoking electronic music can actually be. It’s a marvel of modern music, and nearly a decade after it arrived in our atmosphere, it’s still light years ahead of most other music. I’m so glad my friend gave me a glimpse into the world they created, and it will likely remain an album I go back to over the years and find new things to love about it.
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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