If Kid A is a dark forest filled with spooks and witches and OK Computer is “Groundhog Day” at a dive bar somewhere in Arizona, then In Rainbows is that mysterious city in the clouds you look for every time you’re on a plane ride home. It’s both legendary and beautiful.
Sonically, this is the sharpest Radiohead has ever sounded. In Rainbows provides such brilliant production from longtime producer Nigel Godrich that it is almost tempting to say that this is his album. Previously, in their live formats, the songs on In Rainbows were appetizing, but more minimalist. Godrich’s expertise makes In Rainbows soar with its strange, yet inviting, reverberations and inclusions of choirs and chamber orchestras.
Still, the band’s contributions are also quite clear. Everyone here is in top form, providing experience and experiment. In particular, drummer Phil Selway drives the percussion home in a manner that creates new dimensions to the songs, the same way guitarist Jonny Greenwood first showed his knack and expertise in regards to dissonance on the band’s first hit single, “Creep,” when he added crunch noises to break the tune’s monotony.
And that same chutzpa by Jonny Greenwood is still apparent on tracks like “Bodysnatchers,” where those prominent guitar effects give the MP3 album musical locomotion. Thom Yorke’s voice is also amazingly strong on this release. It is hard to recall any previous tune that surpasses the reach of Yorke’s voice on songs like “Nude” and “Videotape.” This is the more expressive Yorke that had somewhat taken a back seat on Hail to the Thief.
The most engaging, and perhaps most accessible track, however, is the knockout “All I Need.” It’s dark, moody and the perfect accompaniment for a sunset at Sands Beach. Highly recommended.
In the end, though, where does In Rainbows fall in terms of Radiohead’s history? Well, like most Radiohead albums, the new release requires several listens, especially during its latter half where songs start becoming a little too similar. At the very least, however, it is easy to say one thing: In Rainbows is the best thing you will hear all year.