Tag Archives: Radiohead

A-Moon-Shaped-Pool

A new Radiohead record is always a special event and after a particularly long absence nothing sounds better. I’ve listened to little else since A Moon Shaped Pool went live and I don’t see that changing any time soon. This time around they’ve managed to strike the perfect balance between personal and progressive, fleshing out songs that have been marinating for as long as 15 years. Radiohead’s sound has always seemed more important than Thom’s lyrics. There are Radiohead songs that I love, have listened to countless times, but couldn’t tell you two verses of lyrics with a gun to my head. This time around, likely inspired by Thom’s separation from his partner of 23 years Rachel Owen, the lyrics hold a greater amount of weight. Thom, and by extension the band, often operate from a safe distance but these songs feel different – more open, more specific – character traits that add significantly to their strength. The other big textural shift is Jonny Greenwood’s growth as a composer and the addition of the London Contemporary Orchestra on the majority of tracks. Radiohead are no strangers to the grand flourish of a string section but the contributions here are at times more subtle and more complete. The power that these musicians have to offer is better utilized within the landscape of a typical Radiohead song and sometimes, like with lead single “Burn the Witch”, built around that talent. Because many of the songs were plucked from different eras it may be the band’s least comprehensive album. The fact that the songs are organized alphabetically rather than to create a certain energy or tone may be their own acknowledgement of this. The album’s structure also has the fortunate consequence of making you want to reexamine their impressive back catalog, especially the b-sides, with fresh ears after you realize that a good idea or song owes no debt to a release date. Regardless of how you process the record, A Moon Shaped Pool is a rich, fulfilling experience and another impressive addition to their legendary discography.

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Daily inspiration.

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Love this combination of two of my favorite songs by the talented Robert Glasper.

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ThomDazed Digital published a rare and revealing cover story on Radiohead and Atoms For Peace superhero Thom Yorke today.  Amok lives up to the hype, on repeat and likely to stay that way for at least a month.

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Starting my day off by enjoying this fan-made video (with soundboard audio provided by the band) of Radiohead’s September 2011 show at Roseland Ballroom in NYC that I missed due to a scheduling conflict (my wedding). I’m always impressed that people are so inspired by the music that they take the time to create things like this and it’s also cool that the band is so supportive of it. And “Staircase” wins every time…

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We traveled about 30 minutes outside of Berlin proper to join 17,000 fans for a Radiohead show under a full moon. Being so far back and surrounded by that many people made the whole experience a little strange but they sounded great and when I get to see my favorite band in one of the best cities in the world you won’t hear me complaining. Highlights included “Staircase”, “There There”, “Pyramid Song” and a great cover of Bjork’s “Unravel” that led into “Everything In Its Right Place”. We left just a few minutes after that to try and beat the crowd rush back to the train and were treated to a particularly memorable version of “Idioteque” as it echoed through the forest.

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I’m a sucker for lists. I guess it’s just the way my mind works. Once I get started I become obsessed with getting my rankings exactly right. Pitchfork’s The People’s List was no different and particularly hard given how much there was to choose from. Predictably my #1 and 2 spots were held down by Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Kid A. Those two were the easiest choices I made, everything else got moved and shifted around a couple dozen times. Just about every record near the top of my list can be played front to back, with very little interruption, and they’ve all held up very well over time. It was hard for me to weigh personal impact versus longevity. Basically, I had trouble putting a value on records that floored me when they came out but I may not be in love with any more. Kanye’s records in particular packed a big punch on release but just don’t sound as relevant separated by time. If given more time I’d probably still be fooling around with this thing a month from now but I’m satisfied with where it stands. I’d love to see what other people’s lists look like.

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We trooped out to Newark, New Jersey (sister city to Tampa, FL it seems) and the Prudential Center to see Radiohead on Friday. After getting our tickets and waiting in line for no more than 30 minutes, Evan and I found ourselves inside the arena with maybe 50 other people. We walked right to the front of the stage and held down a spot about 5 rows back for the entire show. I can say without hesitation that it was the worst crowd for a Radiohead show I’ve ever experienced but when you’re that close and no one is jostling for position, crowd surfing or even moving much you can really enjoy the details. And there was alot to enjoy… A 23 song set (setlist after the jump) with probably the best visual accompaniment I’ve ever seen. Even better than the incredible In Rainbows set up. Thom was a little out of it, with silly comments and even a couple of mistakes. I guessed trees and a few drinks but he claimed no sleep and cold medicine. Either way it didn’t stop them from putting on an A+ show with plenty of highlights. There were pitch perfect renditions of “Staircase” and “Separator.” A vicious one-two combo of “Lotus Flower” and “The National Anthem.” A new organ part by Jonny on “Reckoner.” Concert rarirty “Kid A” with Thom singing along with the vocoder effects. “How To Disappear Completely” couldn’t have sounded better. Even new addition “Identikit” was immediately likable with an incredible  instrumental break in the middle. An absolutely gorgeous version of “Pyramid Song” was my personal highlight but closing the show with an REM cover (Michael Stipe was apparently in the crowd) that segued right into “Everything In Its Right Place” was about as good as it gets. For an over the top SuperFan such as myself there just isn’t a more satisfying concert experience. Nothing really comes close. Evan got some great shots (and a hilarious Loopcam gif) that will give you an idea how close we were and all the different screen configurations they used. Shout to Staxx for grabbing us floor seats for another very memorable performance.

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Shout to MTV’s James Montgomery aka @positivnegativ for bringing this gem via Retronaut to my attention. As a Radiohead SuperFan this would be cool to me simply as an image but as a recently modern artifact there are several layers of irony to sorth through here. I’m sure some lonely nerd is working on a dissertation as we speak.

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Best Albums of 2011

I guess giving Radiohead the top spot isn’t much of a surprise even if they got almost no year-end love elsewhere. The rest of the list was harder to put together. This ended up being a pretty thin year for LP’s and even some things that I loved early on, faded a bit over time. My Top 10 is mixed between records I couldn’t stop listening to and records I couldn’t stop going back to for better understanding.

Top Albums 2011:

  1. Radiohead – King of Limbs (+Basement Session & The Butcher) Not a benchmark classic but still better than anything else this year #10Best
  2. Watch The Throne – Massive record + instant classic by two of hip-hop’s Kings that took over NY and my headphones for months #10Best
  3. Panda Bear – Tomboy Show at MHWB helped me understand this incredibly personal record that channels Dilla thru a Portugese monastery #10Best
  4. Future Islands – Over the Water With a perfect mix of dramatic vocals &  tight instros sophomore effort might even improve on debut #10Best
  5. Washed Out – Within and Without Cleaner, polished production made this the surprising winner of the 2011 Yacht Rock Award #10Best
  6. SBTRKT – The most original & exciting record I heard this year with a brand new sound & vocals I couldn’t get enough of #wildfire #10Best
  7. Tycho – Dive Finds the perfect balance of analog + digital to achieve audio bliss & soundtrack all the home movies in my head #10Best
  8. Drake – Take Care The Morrissey of hip-hop used his talent as a writer and 40’s production to improve on his much-hated formula #10Best
  9. Destroyer – Kaputt A strange reimagining of 80’s radio that somehow sounded perfect thru winter’s coldest months #RIPClarenceClemons #10Best
  10. Wild Beasts – Smother Masters level production paired with beautiful vocals and mature lyrics made this one of years most underrated #10Best
  11. Wale – Ambition/Eleven One Eleven Theory
  12. Gil Scott-Heron remixed by Jamie xx – I’m New Here
  13. Real Estate – Days
  14. Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine
  15. Frank Ocean – Nostalgia/Ultra
  16. James Blake
  17. Chad Valley – Equatorial Ultravox
  18. Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam
  19. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
  20. Clams Casino – Instrumentals
  21. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
  22. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
  23. Feist – Metals
  24. The Strokes – Angles
  25. Atlas Sound – Parallax
    * CANT – Dreams Come True
    *John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
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