Archive for the ‘Radiohead’ Category

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Radiohead – The Bends

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The Bends (1995)

The Bends (1995)

I think of a lot a words at the mention of The Bends. Nostalgia is one of them. Old friends I don’t really see anymore (sad face). Angst? I don’t know. Maybe that’s too cliche and teenagery. But one thing’s for sure – it was (and is)  an album that was (and is) really important to me, especially during my freshman year of college. All of Radiohead was like that for me in that pivotal time in life, when I was discovering a lot of different things, including a more mature taste in music.

I know I’ve reviewed Radiohead to death on this site, but there’s a reason for that. I listened to this band so much my freshman year of college (and a lot beyond as well) that I’m sure they have become a permanent part of my soul. I don’t know how healthy that is, but that sounds about right to me. It’s even to the point that you can quote one line from just about any of their songs (exluding B-sides) and I would probably be able to tell you not only what song it is, but a lot about that particular song and what exactly it means to me. Each song or album evokes a very distinct feeling/thought process within me and makes me all misty-eyed if I don’t stop myself. It’s kind of weird, and even freaks me out a bit writing about it.

But anyway, tangent. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to this album. Well over a hundred. And listening to each song evokes a certain feeling of sadness in me, for some reason. Something  sublime and completely indescribable. This is Radiohead beginning at their best. The sadness, I guess, comes from such bleak lyrics as “Everything is/broken, Everyone is/broken,” “I want to live, breathe, I want to be part of the human race.” And those are just the first two songs. I don’t want to say it’s depressing. Unlike other music that truly is depressing, Radiohead somehow transcends that. I really don’t know what magic allows it do that, and if I did, I guess it really wouldn’t be magic.

And of course, there’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” “My Iron Lung,” and “Street Spirit,” the latter being one of the main reasons I picked up a guitar. “Immerse your soul in love,” to this day, has to be one of my all time favorite song lyrics, and also a very good philosophy on life.

Well, I haven’t written on this blog for a while, so my writing feels a bit sloppy. But oh well. I love this band. I love this album. The end. Get it now if you don’t have it.

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Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Monday, February 28, 2011

The King of Limbs (2011)

I’m a huge Radiohead fan, and in true fan boy fashion salivate at the mere mention of any potential album.

It was the same for King of Limbs. I had a feeling this one was going to be different – even by Radiohead standards.

Turns out that feeling was more right than I could have imagined.

Not since Kid A have I struggled with a Radiohead album so much. To like, or not to like? While there is much to like, some of the tracks seem lackluster, and the direction they took was quite unexpected.

The lyrics, as usual, are amazing, in Radiohead’s unique cryptic fashion – minimalistic, alluding, and never daring to say anything outright. It perfectly fits with the glitchy, erratic soundscape. The album is very reminiscent of Yorke’s Eraser. But King of Limbs seems more like Yorke’s album than Radiohead’s. Not to say the rest of the band isn’t present – Selway’s drumming really shines and Colin Greenwood’s basswork is phenomenal, though his brother Jonny’s influence is sadly not as evident.

The album’s quality songs rises toward the middle. Highlights are “Bloom,” “Little by Little,” and especially “Lotus Flower” and “Codex,” the latter song probably the most classically Radiohead of them all. It features a piano leading the chord changing charge amid the swooping rising and falling of the background.

I think the many comparisons made between King of Limbs and Kid A/Amnesiac are warranted. Limbs is highly experimental in nature, and is the only Radiohead album that doesn’t outright rock. Even Kid A and Amnesiac did that, which I think is a crux of what makes Limbs so different.

I applaud Radiohead for continuing to mix things up and do their own thing. That is part of the thrill of a new Radiohead album – they never do quite what you expected.

The verdict: King of Limbs is definitely worth the listen. It’s still Radiohead, it’s still good, and is probably still worth your money.

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The Art Of Making An Awesome Mix CD

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nothing is awesomer than an amazing mix CD.  And I came up with an awesome one. At least, for me, it’s awesome. I think it’s an extension of my psyche, and anyone who is just like me should love it too!

Almost all, coincidentally, come from bands I’ve reviewed for my blog, in some form or another.  Of course, it’s not perfect (there’s no such thing as a perfect mix CD – Johnny Banks of Iowa claimed to have made one in 1978, but before it could be heard, it was tragically eaten by his pigs.)

Here is my mix, and beneath the track listing, I will explain why it’s so awesome.

1. “The Bandit” -The Starlight Mints
2. “Triple Fascination” – The Listening
3. “Lazarus” – Porcupine Tree
4. “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” – Modest Mouse
5. “Here Comes Your Man” – Pixies
6. “So Real” – Jeff Buckley
7. “Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)” – Sufjan Stevens
8. “A Lack of Color” – Death Cab for Cutie
9. “Roads” – Portishead
10. “Untiled” – Sigur Rós
11. “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” – Radiohead
12. “Mexico” – Incubus
13. “Jesus, Etc.” – Wilco
14. “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” – Gustav Holst

Now, I will go into the logic behind making a mix CD. Here are some of the basic rules:

1. The mix CD can never stop or end with a lead track or closing track from an album. For example, I could not start this mix CD with “Airbag” off Radiohead’s OK Computer, since that is the lead track from that album. Likewise, I cannot end it with Sonic Youth’s “The Trilogy” off Daydream Nation, since that album ends with that track. Otherwise, it just feels like your listening to that particular album, thus defeating the purpose of a mix CD.

Notice, then, with my track selection, I chose my lead song to be “The Bandit” by the Starlight Mints, which is track two off their album The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of. This was an awesome choice because the song is upbeat and gives energy, enticing the listener to listen further. Only in the rarest of circumstances do you start a mix CD with a slow, soft, or track that’s a downer, but we’ll get to that later.

In a similar vein, I chose my closing track to be “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” by Gustav Holst from his Planets suite. This was a wise choice, because “Jupiter” is in the middle of the suite, yet the piece can also stand on its own. Also, being so glorious sounding makes it conducive to be the ending of a great mix CD, although to some professional CD mixers, this choice might seem a little cliché.  Regardless, it is important to end the mix CD as strong as you started it, if not stronger, in a vainglorious way if at all possible. I am hard-pressed to think of a more epic sounding song than “Jupiter.” (If you haven’t heard it, listen to it! It rocks!)

2. The songs must flow well! Each and every song on my mix CD must blend reasonably well into the next. If you notice my selection above, I would argue that some of my choices are just pure genius, in particular, the transition from Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” into “Mexico.” Both are guitar-picked songs, and both sound like they are in a similar key). By the way, it’s always good for the next song’s first note to either be the same as the previous song’s last note, or at least in the same key. Usually you can tell if you’re ear is good enough – though not necessary, it’s a nice touch.

This also works for similar instruments. Note how strings conclude Wilco’s “Jesus Etc.,” which blends very well into Holst’s strings at the start of “Jupiter. More often than not, a good mix CD has tracks that blend well together, either through similar instruments, keys, distortion, or any other similarity.

3. Having the same two bands in a row is almost always a tacky decision, defeating the purpose of having a mix CD. Similar to this is having two songs from the same band on the mix CD, though you can get away with this more often. If you opt to do this, make sure that these songs showcase different styles for the band. For example, to use Radiohead again as an example, I could pick “Exit Music,” a nice acoustic number by them, and accompany this with “Backdrifts,” a mostly electric song by them using strange chord progressions.

4.  Try not to have all your songs have a similar feel, musicality, or theme. This also defeats the purpose of making a mix CD. The challenge of making an awesome mix CD comes with having plenty of variety form different bands, but still making it flow logically. An exception to this rule is if you’re making a “greatest hits” CD of a certain band, or an eighties themed post-punk CD, or a childhood guilty pleasures CD.

5.  Try to start lighthearted and happy before getting more serious. Try also to end on a light note, so the listener goes away feeling good. It’s the same with writing a book. There needs to be a hook, but it also has to end well or the reader will feel cheated. It’s the same with a great mix CD. Ask yourself: what do I want the listener to feel from the first notes of the first song? And what do I want them to walk away with? Like a good book, save all the heavy conflict, breakups, and drama for the middle. While I didn’t really have the foresight to do it with my mix CD above, try to have songs following your depressing songs that are sort of an answer to them in a positive way, thus making the sun shine over a dark and weary land, so to speak. Notice how in my example of a mix CD, I’ve incorporated all my heavy and depressing songs toward the CD’s middle. Notice how blatantly happy my last track is…I mean, the word “jollity” is in the song’s title! And the happiness of the sickly sweet Starlight Mints song speaks for itself.

6. The sixth rule is the hardest of all – don’t be so rule-bound! If all your mix CD’s follow a formula, than this, too, means that they aren’t a truly mix CDs. There has to be some sort of randomness to it. And keep in mind that once you get better, you’ll learn how to bend and break the rules at the right moments, thus becoming a Mozart or John Coltrane of making mix CDs.

I hope this essay has helped enlighten you on how to make an awesome mix CD. Next time, when you’re at a loss for what to put after that weird TV on the Radio song or just why your mix CD isn’t flowing right, I hope you’ll remember these rules and right your paths on the road of CD mixdom!

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Radiohead – Amnesiac

Monday, January 19, 2009
Amnesiac (2001)

Amnesiac (2001)

This was my final frontier in unlocking Radiohead. At least, out of their studio albums barring In Rainbows.

“Pyramid Song” has over 60 plays on my iTunes, the number two most-played song (after “Perfect Circle” by R.E.M.) Needless to say, I’ve always loved this album of Radiohead, which is all-too-often glossed over in favor of earlier ones.

Yes, OK Computer is amazing, and so is The Bends. But this is a different side of Radiohead. This isn’t even the Kid A Radiohead…Amnesiac is a totally different animal. A bear, in fact, as there’s a bear on the cover (yeah, that’s what that thing is). They’re neat to draw. Every bit of the album is good – there’s not one bad song. 

Do I give Radiohead too much credit? Hecks no. From the opening track, to “You and Whose Army?” (incredible live!), to “I Might Be Wrong,” “Dollars and Cents,” and “Like Spinning Plates…” it’s all there, and it’s all magnificent. It totally transports you to another dimension. I know that sounds all druggy like, but Radiohead’s music is a drug. Beware.

Don’t believe people who say Amnesiac isn’t as good as any of their other stuff. Is not worse – it’s just different. However cliché that sounds, it’s true.

This album is perfect for headphones on a cold, bitter winter day walking outside, with slight sleet shards stinging your face. I hesitate to call it my favorite Radiohead album – that’s whatever Radiohead album is playing at the moment. And let’s just say when it comes to Radiohead there are a lot of moments.

Great replay value – you could listen to Amnesiac seventy times and still catch new things that delight and surprise you.

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Radiohead – “Supercollider”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This news is a bit late in coming, but it still feels worthwhile to talk about. I’m among those who speculate Radiohead to release a new album sometime in 2009, as I mentioned in an earlier post where the band said it was a possibility.

Currently unreleased, “Supercollider” may be released by Radiohead on their next album. If so, it might offer a clue of what to expect. Like In Rainbows, I expect Radiohead’s lyrics to be more positive lyrically than their previous work.

This seems to be the case with “Supercollider” as well, with Thom singing, “I have jettisoned my illusions / I have dislodged my depression / I put the shadows back into / the boxes.” Thom struggled with depression, which reflected highly in the lyrics of Kid A and Amnesiac, released in 2000 and 2001 respectively. These lyrics are a far cry from “How to Disappear Completely,” with Thom singing “I’m not here /This isn’t happening / I’m not here /I’m not here.”

I’m happy for Thom Yorke in that he his life is getting better, that his perspectives, motivations, and inspirations, as well as that of the band, are being featured in their music and not solely the negativities.

Like many critics of In Rainbows, I agree that this is a new band, no longer solely angry or saddened by the state of the world. Though these sentiments are still present, hope is also expressed in the lyrics of both In Rainbows and the currently unreleased “Supercollider.”

I like Radiohead’s new direction – not only are they able to make compositional leaps and bounds, but lyrical ones as well.