There are times when you need an uplifting song to raise your mood, at other times a sad song can emotionally connect with particular feelings and be more meaningful. Indeed, many people consider sad songs better and deeper than happy songs, as they speak profoundly to the human condition.
Just sometimes though, we need to rage and let our feelings out, as this can be very cathartic. Here’s a Radiohead song does just that, it’s a song of rage from their album Kid A released in 2000.
Everyone Everyone around here Everyone is so near It’s holding on It’s holding on
Everyone Everyone is so near Everyone has got the fear It’s holding on It’s holding on
It’s holding on It’s holding on It’s holding on
Thom Yorke sings short, ambiguous lyrics, using voice distortion and a feedback echo that creates a sense of isolation and fear. The looping heavy bass line that leads the song was composed by Yorke when he was 16 years old. The early electronic instrument called ondes Martenot, played by Jonny Greenwood, was inspired by Olivier Messiaen. The free jazz-style brass section was inspired by the work of Charles Mingus. Added to that are some interlaced sound effects and mysterious samples creating quite a unique track.
Sgt. Pepper is obvious, and is my first choice. Back in Black wouldn’t get a look in, but Saturday Night Fever has some merit.
So, what would I choose to go with Sgt. Pepper?
There are so many possibilities, including other albums by The Beatles – but that would just be indulgent. Certain albums by David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead were strong contenders, but I decided to go with these two classics:
This wonderful album became one of my favourites of 2020 on first hearing, especially as the opening track is a superb instrumental cover of a Radiohead song.
The unexpected opening track, a wordless cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” offers a sort of formal thesis statement. Owens’ interpretation emphasizes the Steve Reich-like qualities of Jonny Greenwood’s guitar line, stretching it into an undulating synthesizer pattern. Forgoing vocals, she distills the song’s harmonic essence, stripping it down to emphasize a single part of the whole, evoking a state of trance-like contemplation until a jittery breakbeat crashes through.Pitchfork
Kelly Lee Owens is a Welsh electronic musician and producer, who skilfully combines multiple genres in one perfectly formed album. This is a beautiful piece of work, and ideal for evening listening.
One track features vocals from John Cale in both English and Welsh, this collaboration and the inclusion of the Welsh language was a means to connect with her Welsh heritage.
You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.
I’m retrospectively listing this album as a favourite of 2020 as I missed it when it came out in April 2020, probably because of the moniker EOB and the fact that a lot was going on in my life then. You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.
Earth is the debut solo album by Ed O’Brien, one of the guitarists of Radiohead, its brilliance was unmistakable on my first listen.
Living in Brazil since 2012, the album was inspired by the spirit and being in Brazil, open-heartedness, rhythm, and colour, as well as the Primal Scream album Screamadelica (1991). Primarily an alternative rock, post-Britpop, and dance-rock album, Earth features elements of tropical dance, bossa nova, and punk funk.
It’s a highly original album, with (for me anyway) some ‘wow’ moments. It’s been described as ‘a reassuring anchor in these chaotic times’. Believe me, it’s well worth a listen.
Earlier this year Radiohead launched their own public library comprising an online archive of the band’s vast material.
You can create your own library card and membership number giving access to a curated and organised archive of the band’s back catalogue and a selection of artefacts associated with each album. You can also stream a number of previously unavailable rarities for the first time.
Having recently posted my album of the 2010s decade I’ve gone back retrospectively and compiled my favourite album(s) of each year of the 2000s in order to choose my album of that decade.
You might be surprised by one (if not more) of the choices, but I have written about my musical eclecticism here. I’m not one to shy away from a particular group or musician simply because some might consider that choice as ‘uncool’ to like.
Listed below are over 30 of my favourite albums, and you’ll see that 2001 was a good year with 9 favourites altogether. Choosing my album of the 2010s decade was easy, the album effectively chose itself, but this decade is not so easy.
The Radiohead albums are particular favourites, especially Kid A and Amnesiac, but I’ve actually chosen In Rainbows. It was self-released as a pay-what-you-want download. This was a first for a major act and it made headlines around the world and sparked debate about implications for the music industry. So In Rainbows has significance over and above the music itself.
Once I’d chosen my top albums of the individual years of the decade (15 albums in total with joint-favourites) the album of the decade just shouted out at me!
Blackstar (stylised as ★) by David Bowie was released on 8 January 2016 (Bowie’s 69th birthday). Two days later, he died of liver cancer; his illness had not been revealed to the public until then. Co-producer Tony Visconti described the album as Bowie’s intended swan song and a “parting gift” for his fans before his death. Staying true to himself, he again produced something new and unique.
The album is remarkable in that David Bowie turns his own death into a work of art. Without discussion or question, it’s my album of the decade.
My feeling this year (you may disagree of course) is that there have been lots of good albums, so it’s hard to pin down. For me, there are two outstanding albums that are my joint number one commercial album. Because there have been so many, this year I’m doing my top 20 instead of my usual top 10, and even that wasn’t easy!
Ghosteen by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is the final part of a trilogy of albums released in the last few years, it is simply an astonishing album. In his first album wholly written since the death of his son, Cave reaches an extraordinary, sad and beautiful artistic evolution.
Anima by Thom Yorke has been described as “full of wraithlike frequencies and fibrillating pulses” in Pitchfork. The wonderful track Dawn Chorus is a “reverential song about loss, nostalgia, and regret” with “hushed”, almost-spoken vocals.
I use the opportunities that driving with the family provides to introduce my young children (well mainly Freddy aged 3 at the moment) to great music. This morning it was the classic Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, previously we’ve listened to The Beatles and a few others.
I’ll probably leave it a while before introducing them to Metallica and Radiohead, for example, but what would you suggest is essential music they should be hearing at an early age? Not necessarily your favourites, but essential classics, albums and musicians. I look forward to your suggestions.
In any normal year The Ship by Brian Eno would be my favourite album of the year but for three outstanding albums released in 2016 which top it.
All my top three albums deserve the number one spot, and each of them have been number one at some time in the last few weeks. So I’m going to bottle out and give all three joint number one status, listing in order of release. They each have qualities that make them deserving of being number one.
David Bowie‘s twenty-fifth and final studio album Blackstar was released on his 69th birthday Friday 8 January 2016, two days later his death was announced. Blackstar is his swan song and parting gift. It’s a remarkable piece of work and the track Lazarus is my favourite single track of the year. The picture is imagery from the album simply because, of the three albums, this is the most significant.
Radiohead‘s ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool was released in May with minimal promotion, namely two songs and associated videos the week before. Several songs date back a number of years, one right back to 1995. It can be described as an art-rock album, notable for acoustic guitar and piano timbres and some wonderful choral and string arrangements.
The third album in my top three is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds‘ sixteenth studio album Skeleton Tree, a follow-up to their excellent 2013 album Push the Sky Away (my favourite album of that year). The album is not an easy listen, but worth the effort. Most of the album had been written at the time of Cave’s son’s death, but several lyrics were amended by Cave during subsequent recording sessions and feature themes of death, loss and personal grief (Wikipedia).
Let me know what you think of my choices, and why not share your favourites?