February 20, 2011

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Following the anticipation that has been building up since last Monday when Radiohead released the information that their eighth album was going to be released on Saturday (actually turned out to be Friday), here's a full track-by-track review of The King of Limbs.

An odd keyboard loop fades in and starts the album off, then 4 synthed blips, and a clumsy beat begins. The song sounds as if it's stumbling over itself, until Thom's hauntingly reverbed vocals come into the messy mix and smooth everything over, along with Colin's bassline. I can't say I've heard an opening track to any Radiohead album that's set the mood as well as Bloom.

Morning Mr Magpie:
This might be my favorite song off of the album. More of the same structure of the first track, it has the schizophrenic beat, the echoey vocals, only this song is a little more eerie. Somewhere in the middle, the beat drops, and Thom's spooky vocals float about. Try to imagine you're in the middle of a dank, cold forest, at night, lost, running from something. I think that would set the right mood.

Little by Little:
Much more catchy than the first too, still quite dark though. Most notable on this track is that the beat is clear and the melody is more Radiohead-esque. I can tell that this is going to be a live favorite. I can already see Thom doing some crazy dance onstage.

The beat here is much more straight forward, but the warped vocals are so scattered that it's hard to make sense of the song. I'd say that it would fit nicely with Thom's solo album.

Lotus Flower:
One of the more pleasant tracks. Thom's voice climbs high here, which could be very soothing for some, but a bit unnerving for others, as his pitch stays the same throughout, and it can become tedious. For me, the song doesn't evolve enough.

This slow-churning piano ballad might not reach the heights of Pyramid Song, but it certainly comes close, and it surpasses the likes of In Rainbows closer Videotape by a long shot.

Give Up the Ghost:
For those of you who were listening to this album scratching at your eyes, begging for the electronic blips and confusing rhythms to stop, and for some sort of acoustic song to come up, well this is as close as you're going to get. The presence of the guitar here almost makes it feel like a Department of Eagles song. The song stays relatively subdued throughout, as Thom warbles innocently "Don't hurt me", and several sonic layers of vocals comes up towards the end. Pretty, but underwhelming.

Couldn't think of a more perfect way to end an album. The quick but simple drum track and light hearted singing really lightens up the mood, especially when the playful guitar melody comes in about halfway through. The last couple of minutes of the song really prove to be the best two minutes of the album. Thom's singing "Wake me up, wake me up" towards the end, and the syncopated guitar notes descending feel distant, but very, very blissful.

So to wrap up, Radiohead have released another solid LP that has turned out to be one of their most consistent records to date, but feels a little more like a follow up to Thom Yorke's solo album, and unfortunately lacks on the memorable scale. Where In Rainbows had the awesome distortion of Bodysnatchers, or the excessively beautiful string arrangements on Nude, this album will have to make do with Little by Little, or Morning Mr Magpie. Of course I know that they're not going to make another OK Computer or The Bends, but that doesn't mean they can't pull through and make another superb record like In Rainbows. I'm curious as to whether they'll release more tracks on this double vinyl that comes out in May. In the mean time, I'll enjoy these songs just fine.

As an album, I'd give it an 8. As a Radiohead album, a 6.5. Also, if you don't like it at first, give it a few more listens and then see.

1. Bloom
2. Morning Mr Magpie
3. Little by Little
4. Feral
5. Lotus Flower
6. Codex
7. Give Up the Ghost
8. Separator


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