#7 on the 2011 Musical Bacon Calendar
The King of Limbs by Radiohead
Strangely, even though I view this album as the 7th best album to have been released in the past year, this will not be an entirely favorable review. It’s pretty good if a band’s new album can be labeled as “the second-worst album they’ve put out in their 18-year history,” and yet still have it rank better than all albums released in the past year except for 6 others. But that’s precisely what Radiohead have done.
The King of Limbs is a great record by almost any measure. But compare it to the 6 most recent Radiohead albums, dating back to 1995’s The Bends, and you notice that this new ablum is a real turd. It just doesn’t hold up. It does, however, give credence to the adage “On their worst day, Radiohead are way better than [any other band].” Astute observers (you know who you are) will have noticed that #26 on this year’s Calendar was TKOL RMX 1234567, a two-disc remix album of The King of Limbs. For a while I held up the remix album as the better of the two records, but I should have known better. As more time passes since the release of TKOL RMX, I can tell it’s not going to have the staying power that The King of Limbs will.
It’s the nature of any Radiohead album: there are things to discover upon every listen. And you might think that’s just a ridiculous thing to say, and you might even be right. But it’s also true. Radiohead are the masters of the subtle, the unexpected. The layers found in their albums are so well-constructed, it’s the filo dough of music. And I do love baklava so very much.
It’s hard to define what makes this album so weak by Radiohead standards. This album feels a little like an extension of their amazing 2007 album In Rainbows, with a considerable dash of lead singer Thom Yorke’s solo album The Eraser. It’s very heavy on the techno, electronic side of things. It’s also a bit quiet, with little to no heavy guitar riffs and catchy melodies. But that’s ok. I quite liked The Eraser, and The King of Limbs is still a great album overall. The Radiohead discography has a long line of albums that set the bar so high, it was clearly unsustainable in the long run. It’ll take another album or two to know for sure if Radiohead have jumped the shark, but my gut says this isn’t a fork in the road. We’re just driving on the shoulder.
8. Bad As Me by Tom Waits
9. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
10. The Youth Die Young by Mad Rad
11. Last Night On Earth by Noah and the Whale
12. Codes and Keys by Death Cab For Cutie
13. Valley of the Headless Men by Ravenna Woods
14. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys
15. James Blake by James Blake
16. Hysterical by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
17. An Argument with Myself by Jens Lekman
18. The Whole Love by Wilco
19. My Goodness by My Goodness
20. My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters and Men
21. Gloss Drop by Battles
22. Showroom of Compassion by CAKE
23. A New Kind of House EP by Typhoon
24. EP by Grouplove
25. Fan Chosen Covers (Best of) by Eef Barzelay
26. TKOL RMX 1234567 by Radiohead
27. Organ Music Not Virbraphone Like I’d Hoped by Moonface
28. Heavy Boots & Underwoods by Ben Fisher
29. The Rip Tide by Beirut
30. Collapse Into Now by R.E.M.
31. I Am Very Far by Okkervil River