Big news across the music universe this week with the release of Radiohead’s latest album, In Rainbows. Not only because it’s new output from one of the world’s most respected and acclaimed bands, but also because it was released using a very novel technique. The album is only available via an official Web site.
You can either buy a super-deluxe package (complete with a bonus disc of other new songs, a lyric book, and more) or just download the album’s 10 songs at whatever price you’d like to pay. This release strategy has received almost more press than the album itself. Which is why I wanted to wait a few days before remarking on the quality of the songs. Also, because In Rainbows is one of those records that needs room to breathe. After each listen, it grows deeper and darker inside your ears. It’s a great album, no matter how it gets to you.
With a fair amount of strings, samples, beats, and Thom Yorke’s aching voice, In Rainbows might be the best Radiohead album since Kid A. It’s MUCH better than 2003’s meandering Hail to the Thief and a notch or two better than 2001’s Amnesiac. One of the strengths of Radiohead 2.0 (the band, post 1995’s The Bends) is the way Yorke’s voice is utilized like one of the instruments. His lyrics are often hard to decipher at first, and his crooning usually sneaks in and out, rather than coming to the forefront.
After my first 20 listens, some of the real standout tracks would be: the ghostly, atmospheric rambler “House of Cards,” the moody “Reckoner,” the R&B-swaggering “Nude,” the folky, propulsive “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” and the bombastic “Bodysnatchers.” But, like the best albums in the world, new favorites and new surprises creep into your ear after each listen. Yes, it’s that kind of album. Don’t let October pass you by, without at least hearing In Rainbows one, or 100 times.