In my opinion, the single greatest band of the last twenty years. What was wrongly assumed to be a no brainer one hit wonder band, the British powerhouses of nuance-Yorke, the brothers Greenwood, Selway, and O’Brien have consistently been able to transcend modern music and make thought-provoking music that’s not easily digestible but nonetheless has engrossed a massive following that is as fervent as the band is stubborn in pursuit of new exciting sounds and emotions. As another entry in our series of top five albums, I present to you the five best albums from the one and only Radiohead.
5. Amnesiac, 2001
Released just one year after Kid A (we’ll get to that later), this record is weird, yet motivating, but also with a sinister undertone, like a foreboding apocalypse. “Pyramid Song” is a masterpiece and maybe their best song period, while closer “Life in a Glasshouse” is a solemn, worrisome track that whimpers passionately, under a cloud of horns and uncertainty. So much of the album is opposite of its predecessor, yet it still manages to be a poignant reminder of the potential of the band. I feel like it’s often overlooked when discussing the bands best moments, but if you’re a fan of the band through and through, it’s a classic album that deserves accolades.
4. The Bends, 1995
Pablo Honey has come and gone, and while most people simply wrote them off as that one hit wonder band, the quintet set out to push themselves to make something more memorable than the first go ‘round. The result, 1995’s “The Bends” is a British arena rock album just waiting for a crowd big enough to rock arenas. The title track is snarky and conquering all in the same, and the guitar work on the track, as well as the accompanying record proved to everyone that they weren’t correct in writing the band off as the next big thing that went nowhere. “Fake Plastic Trees” is perhaps the most unusual ballad of the decade, while still being a beautiful soaring moment. “My Iron Lung” bristles in the sunlight before diving deep into anguish, while “”Black Star” is melancholy and honest. The album got people to put more stock into the band(at least critically), and by the time the band released their next album they were no longer a forgotten name from the early 90’s.
3. In Rainbows, 2007
Pay what you want, and get a record. I still remember the announcement of the bands seventh record, and definitely not understanding the angle. Either way, once you downloaded “In Rainbows” you were welcomed into a record that ended up being a landmark for the band. It has all the constructions and effects that a fan can recognize as being Radiohead, but it’s more casual and easy going then some of their more experimental records. It’s has the slow building moments like “Nude” and “Videotape,” but it also has measured angst and raucousness during segments like “Bodysnatchers” and “Jigsaw Falling into Place.” This record is hard to escape, even 12 years after the fact. It shows a band maturing in gorgeous but painful ways, and sees the band enter a new landscape of musical direction.
2. OK Computer, 1997
The album that changed everything. One moment they were a quite good but obscure band, and then the turn approached and the band went balls to the wall to break out of their earlier shell. The result is simple- the best album of the 90’s. In 1997 it was hailed as a masterpiece, which it is, but we hadn’t yet met this “new” Radiohead. Every track on “OK” works and sits nestled in comfortably with each other track. “Paranoid Android” is a whirlwind of sounds and energy, while “Let Down” is a thick mess of emotions and soundscapes. The point is, every song compliments the tracks before and after it while staying true to the theme of failing systems prevalent through the running time of the album. The fact that every song is an illumination of the bands strengths make the album that much more of a landmark. Even after 22 years it’s still often regarding as a perfect album, but that’s only because it actually is.
1. Kid A, 2000
And now we come to the number one. Obviously this is just my opinion, but when a band does a complete and sudden 180 in regards to their sound, and it ends up being this goddamn good, you have to take notice. The cold electronic elements beaming through the record put the listener in a lonely, thoughtful place, but again, it simply works. “How to Disappear Completely” is a slow burn of emotion, with Yorke’s detached voice acting as a compass as you wander through the dark looking for safe passage. Note, this record is less about showing safe passage than it is opening up your subconscious in a way that’s measured but sullen. I could listen to this all day and still find new things to get excited over. “Idioteque” is more upbeat and energetic in instrumentation, but it still has the hunger and depraved moments the band is known for. If “OK Computer” was the best album of the 1990’s, than “Kid A” stands as the moment that the band not only made two of the best albums in different decades, but also the moment that the mass public really started to get hooked into the wondrous, illuminating sounds that make this band so timeless and engaging.
Thanks for reading!!
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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