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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Radiohead
In Rainbows
self-released

Rating: 9.1/10 ?


October 16, 2007
How does one write about an artfully dropped new Radiohead album in the year 2007? There have been dissertations and manifestos published regarding the seminal turn-of-the-century rock group, and the simple phrase "new Radiohead album" can propel the blogosphere into overdrive. As we now know, Thom Yorke & Company pulled a fast one on a fan base that hangs on every move the outfit makes; but with our year-end lists still in rough draft form, the new guard managed to one-up even themselves.

Bypassing all traditional modi of operandi, including that thing called a record label, Radiohead discreetly released their pay-what-you-will-server-crashing-download-exclusive In Rainbows to a listening public given just ten days notice. In this spirit, as the antithesis of "no surprises," I decided to give Radiohead a clean slate before hearing In Rainbows for the first time, as if the band were a new incarnation. For the sake of critically analyzing a critically over-analyzed set of musicians with anything approaching objectivity, this review is in consideration of an album coming from an unsigned group (technically true) in an unmarked package (ditto).

Forty one seconds. That's how long it took before I realized that this band has its shit together. "15 Step" starts with a rash of drum machine and falsetto (apparently, Yorke can get higher), initially coming across as a fairly generic piece of post-mod electro rock. But then, nearly a minute into things, the guitars kick in. Not just any guitars, but the smoothest, jazziest licks one Jonny Greenwood has put to tape, disarming, warm, and juxtaposed with the tin beats in a frighteningly tasteful manner. Ok computer, I see that this is not your average band.

"Bodysnatchers" begins with a guitar line that is alien to the previous song's earthly pleasure, more akin to the space invader nature of the title. It's a hard right turn from clarity to distortion, yet this directional shift is nothing compared with the album's third and most ethereal track, "Nude," in which Yorke's voice drifts over drum taps whilst bass, guitar and keys slowly propel the gorgeous ballad forward. This outfit obviously knows their way around a melody, and something in their craft sounds vaguely familiar, a distant reverb from the late 20th century...

By the time the minor soundscape of "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" comes into focus In Rainbows is in full swing, clearly establishing itself as an album foregoing any experimentation, navigating instead by a tight series of unadorned song structures. "All I Need" is as conventional a song as anything from U2, but is deceptively alluring in its slow-burn execution. "Faust Arp" is the mellowest song of the lot, a two-minute interlude of plucking acoustics and strings over Yorke's warbled voice. "Reckoner" may be the album's strongest cut, drifting back to the falsetto and jazz-inspired guitar lines so effortlessly and graceful that it could have been lifted from the pages of the Sigur Rós playbook.

The album winds down with a trio of songs that are so sparse, yet so full, they challenge the notion that matter must remain constant. "House of Cards" is musically reductive, and with its easy 4/4 tempo could be a fake-book standard. Yet when this band approaches it, their musical gravity stretches even the simplest structures into new forms. "Jigsaw Falling into Place" hits the accelerator, driving hard toward the event horizon, but then dead-ends at the solitary, classical piano notes of "Videotape," where over minor chords Yorke austerely sings, "When I'm at the pearly gates/ This'll be on my videotape/ My videotape/ When Mephistopheles is just beneath/ And he's reaching up to grab me." Existentialism exists, in rainbows.

Excluding the established Radiohead franchise from consideration of In Rainbows, it is still one of the most compelling recent releases, and should be considered for 2007's Album of the Year in any context. Yet even in the reality of this band's valiant career, it is still patent that In Rainbows is a masterstroke. Perpetually operating in the wake of the era-defining impact of following OK Computer with Kid A and the aftershocks of their subsequent and nearly universally acclaimed albums, this group of young men from Oxford University have stood ground by doing what comes naturally: stripping down to their core, and making a simple, gorgeous record. In Rainbows pulls together strands from OK Computer and Hail to the Thief, and borrows its sensibility from Thom Yorke's solo outing as The Eraser, but like all their endeavors this is a group effort, and the result is a group triumph: Radiohead are rife with talent, and no matter where they step, they quietly pave new ground. The success of In Rainbows may have been a forgone conclusion on October 9th, and the album does nothing to detract from Radiohead's monolithic presence: they are still quite possibly the greatest band of our era.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro

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