Pretty rainbows and terrible, wracking guilt

What are the chances? I finally break down and download Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” for free (when you download it, you are allowed to name your own price, including £0), and the next day on Yahoo! News they go out of their way to make me feel guilty. Now I’ll have to go to a Radiohead show and buy merchandise in order to feel better about contributing to the creation of beautiful things.

I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to actually analyze the entire album, but I will say that a lot of the music seems less gloomy/angry than your usual Radiohead fare — driving, aggressive, go-for-a-run percussion and adventurous dual guitar parts combine with Yorke’s singular vocal work to create an energetic, outward-looking sound for some tracks, while the slower, more introspective tracks feel stripped-down and reverent.

RadioheadWith the slower songs, the melodies and harmonies seem to have been smoothed out. Instead of angsty slow discord ballads, the slow songs are almost hymnlike (the long sustained note three minutes into “Nude” showcases a clear, direct quality to Yorke’s voice that I hadn’t really heard clearly in any of their previous work.) As always, the harmonies Yorke creates with his own voice make my heart happy, and although intellectually I know his extensive use of falsetto should get annoying at some point, it leaps right over the “annoying” stage and becomes just plain awesome.

Some of the sounds utilized as percussive elements were downright gorgeous (in particular, the thwip noises at the beginning of “Nude”). Instrumentally, we get the same kinds of guitars we hear in earlier Radiohead records, the same thoughtful use of piano, the same repetitive and haunting structure to many of the songs. Drums provide something different in many of the songs (ex: the album’s closer Videotape, which is ostensibly your average mournful, somber Radiohead piano ballad, replaces run-of-the-mill drums with playful mini-crescendos that blur the line between percussion and sound effects.)

And after I said that I wasn’t going to review it, too…

“In Rainbows” is by turns mournful, urgent, playful, violent, orchestral, stripped-down. However, the real joy of “In Rainbows” is the way it balances the Radiohead we know and love with our own demand for novelty. Overall, it’s exactly what I was expecting from Radiohead: a gorgeous first listen with plenty of study-music potential (that is, if I could get myself to study once in a while.)

Now I just feel guiltier for downloading it for free.

(Image here.)


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