It seems like people always rate a new Radiohead album by where it fits into their musical taste, but really Radiohead albums are about moving your taste. Seems like albums that move people’s taste the least are better received than the ones that move it less. So when I listen to a new Radiohead album I’m interested in where they’ll take me, not how they live up to standards they previously set.
Radiohead always throws me off with their opening track; the descent into Planet Telex, the abrasion of Airbag, the alien Everything in its Right Place, the distant tin toy sounds of Packt Like Sardines, and ecstatic drums of 15 Step have all left me scrambling to get a hold on where the band is going. Bloom is a softer Packt Like Sardines that fades into the atmosphere (past the two minute mark) like Everything in its Right Place. It feels stunted, the drum beat, which is ironic in light of its lyrics: “Open your mind wide.”
2. Morning Mr. Magpie
A concert constant from the Hail to the Thief days that’s been reworked, maybe overworked. Its ominous lyrics hearken back to Paranoid Android: “When I am king you will be first against the wall” and the taunt of You and Whose Army. Thom really lunges with his voice in this one. Doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
3. Little By Little
Bit of a James Bond feel to it. Once again, the middle of the song shifts, giving it a more ominous feel. At the end it feels more wistful. The first song that grips me immediately.
I like the dueling beeps over the drums. Idioteque-ish. The Treefingers of the album, except not terrible like Treefingers.
5. Lotus Flower
I watched the video of Lotus Flower while downloading the album to get a little taste so this is my second hearing. Sounds very familiar (which might mean I have a live version that I’ve been listening to). Kind of a siren song. The album is starting to warm up.
The piano ballad. Bent just a little to avoid the deep dark; a bit like Videotape. This would’ve annihilated my teen years.
7. Give Up the Ghost
The album already feels like it’s on a landing pattern. Chilling in places, but takes on the feeling of a sing along toward the middle. Feels like a concluding song.
Seems like all of the songs start the same. Very jolly.
Early bird favorites are Little by Little, Codex, and Lotus Flower.
For more here’s an excellent review at Obscure Sound