Dec 23 2010

The Top 50 Albums of the 2000s – In Rainbows

Today I continue a series of posts dedicated to the best albums of the last decade, posting analysis of one album at a time.

44. Radiohead – In Rainbows

Released in October 2007 digitally (for a price of your choosing) and physically dropped on New Year’s Day 2008, In Rainbows was the end of the longest gap in between albums for Radiohead.  Whether you agree or not, the album is generally credited with establishing a new business model for a crippling music industry, offering a “pay what you want” scheme for the digital copy, exclusively from the band’s website.  It seems fitting that Radiohead would do this; they had just split with EMI, and In Rainbows was their first album not on a major label.  This idea has been adopted by many independent artists since the media storm surrounding the inventive self-leak.  But what In Rainbows is remembered for is not necessarily what makes it great – it is, for a group like Radiohead, quite shockingly amorous.

Thom Yorke once described the mood and lyrics of In Rainbows as “seduction songs,” and it’s hard to argue with that.  For the most part, the album is softer, more down-tempo, and, well, more romantic (in a weird Radiohead kind of way) than anything they’ve ever done.  Take the piano chords and easing texture of the sensual “All I Need,” or the creeping crescendo of “Videotape.”  Even songs that channel the 21st-century electronic-noodling side of the British group, such as “15 Step” and “Nude,” are less raw and foreboding than the highlights of Kid A and Hail to the Thief.  Meanwhile, the guitar-based Bends and OK Computer-era tracks, referring to “Weird Fishes” and “Reckoner,” show maturation, and, lyrically speaking, poetic contemplation.

With 2011 fast approaching, the talks from Johnny Greenwood are already aplenty regarding a follow-up to this fantastic disc, one of Radiohead’s best hands down.  And as their track record shows, in terms of ingenuous marketing as well as growth in musicianship, we can expect something completely different and amazing all at once.

Radiohead – 15 Step

Radiohead – All I Need

Radiohead – Reckoner