Reader’s choice/PMA choice: Radiohead – In Rainbows
So far this column has dedicated itself to two albums each year. We’ve liked that model… it’s given us the ability to delve into more bands each year, and discuss more music. It’s worked too, since generally there have been multiple bands that deserve “Best of…” honors. 2007 was a GREAT year for music. One of the best I can remember. You guys voted and you selected In Rainbows… the problem being: WE AGREE.Wholeheartedly agree. It’s Radiohead all the way in 2007.
We already discussed at length Radiohead fans feelings about Kid A. Despite everyone’s initial knee-jerk reaction, people look back and admire the work on the album. However, history and fans haven’t been as kind to Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief. I mean… people liked them okay, but whenever it comes right down to it, (before In Rainbows) I'd met very, very few fans that could look me in the eye and honestly say that they were happy with the direction Radiohead had gone, or that they were ready for the guitar riddled days of Pablo Honey to be through. It seemed like most fans hung in there through the progressive years on the off chance that Radiohead’s experimentation would eventually circle back and bring some of their old hooks with them into the future. Don't get me wrong… I think most people were content with the state of Radiohead's affairs. I mean, we'd gotten fantastic albums like The Bends, Kid A, and OK Computer, and we were still getting interesting work out of them... but at the end of the day their “new” stuff never quite felt like the 90's Radiohead that many of us had fallen in love with, and there was always that misty eyed, love-lost feeling whenever any serious fan would discuss their work.
I think people had come to terms with the idea that that Radiohead was gone. The band had built up enough equity with fans that they could experiment with “good” albums. Thom Yorke had gone down his rabbit hole, and after Hail to the Thief was released, I think most fans never expected him to resurface again — and that was okay. But then came 2007; and Radiohead pulled a classic move. Just when we’d all sat up to the progressive table they had set for us, they ripped the tablecloth out and released In Rainbows.
In Rainbows was a landmark album for different reasons. Not only did it change the way we looked music distribution (by offering a pay-what-you-want marketing system), but in one fell swoop, it married old school Radiohead with the progressive, new sound we had grown accustomed to... and it was amazing. It felt like a culmination of sound. It was warmer and more accessible than much of Radiohead’s previous work, and critics rewarded it with their best reviews to date. The album became Radiohead’s highest chart success in the USA since Kid A and “Nude” debuted at #37 in the Billboard Hot 100 (Radiohead’s first song to make the chart since 1995’s “High and Dry”). The album forced people to reconnect to the band’s music again. In Rainbows ended up being nominated for the short list of the Mercury Music Prize, and the band won Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammys (2009).
To me, the most impressive outcome of In Rainbows was the realization that Radiohead actually knew what they were doing all those years… that they could put out an amazing album any time they wanted. Every success they had experienced up until OK Computer was vindicated. They made themselves relevant to a whole new generation of music fans, and they solidified themselves as one of the greatest bands of all time.
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