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.
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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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