I have been putting off committing any kind of opinion on The King Of Limbs for a while now. I think largely because whilst reviews have been dropping like bombs around me since its release, I have struggled to shake the feeling that I haven’t run with it enough. Some of the reviews out there have come across as slightly premature and I don’t want to fall in to that trap.
Before even dipping in to how it sounds and how good it is I have found it to be completely compulsive, almost hypnotic. Thinking nothing of listening three or four times on repeat, it has been my go to album ever since its release, through little more than impulse alone. If I were to be honest, this addictive draw can probably be boiled down to the fact that this is a Radiohead album and as with all Radiohead albums there is that constant need to “get it”, to explore it and learn all of its nuances, crevices and charms, akin to something like licking a dinner plate clean. It might of course have something to do with the albums length, Sufjan Stevens recently passed off an 8 track release that was substantially greater in length than this album, as an Ep. The King Of Limbs won’t test your patience but I wouldn’t go as far as calling it an Ep, it’s too cohesive for that, It’s a short album, but an album nonetheless.
‘Bloom’ gets things underway with some piano tinkering that quickly gives way to skittish beats that sound erratic and almost improved, as much of a dichotomy as this sounds it provides the foundation for the entire song. Immediately it blurs the boundaries between live musicianship and studio trickery, bearing close resemblance to Kid A and Amnesiac as well as Thom Yorkes solo album ‘The Eraser’. Yorkes vocals are layered over the top almost as an afterthought, there seems to be little correlation between the music and the vocals but what brings the song together nicely are the horns. They subtly build and release in the background, swelling to mini crescendos whilst the song drives forward on those beats. When you couple these with the almost jazz like double bass, that again has an air of improv about it, it’s easy to see why people are drawing parallels between The King Of Limbs and Cosogramma.
This aesthetic and non-traditional song structure is continued through second song ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ which features more memorable melodies and from what I can tell, guitars for the first time. Again, with this song I am picking up a strong sense of layering but what I like is how these layers are occasionally peeled back to let other elements breathe, it’s a good way of giving emphasis to a vocal or guitar melody and keeps the song interesting. The dominant theme so far has been electronica and this continues throughout the entire first half of The King Of Limbs, culminating in its boldest of statements; ‘Feral’. The track is almost entirely instrumental save for the use of wordless vocals that have been treated and manipulated beyond recognition, these serve almost as additional instrumentation. ‘Feral’ pushes the envelope for Radiohead and wouldn’t sound out-of-place on recent releases by Caribou, Four Tet and even James Blake.
The second half is more organic sounding, kicking off with lead single ‘Lotus Flower’ which sees Yorke singing in a soulful falsetto over shifting textures, more shapeshifting beats and hand claps. Things get much more relaxed from here on in and Johnny Greenwoods influence is more prominent in the score like orchestral elements. ‘Codex’ features some beautifully distorted piano and probably my favourite vocal performance on the album, there is still lots going on here but it sounds less busy and hurried. ‘Give Up The Ghost’ continues the mood with some acoustic guitars, gentle hand percussion and call and response vocals. ‘Seperator’ closes the album out on a nice middle ground between electronic and organic, it’s Radiohead at their prettiest with some gorgeous backing vocals and almost as a reminder that they are a band, some delightfully melodic guitar refrains.
I’m not one to agonise over where TKOL will sit in Radioheads discography, nor am I one to compare and contrast. But it can’t go without saying that this is by no means Radioheads greatest, it does have a tendency to pass you by and never really demands the kind of attention that previous albums might have. What has interested me whilst reading various discussions and comments about the record is that every song here has been singled out as a favourite by more than a few people. There is very little by way of a standout song but rather they each stand shoulder to shoulder with one another and form a consistent and rewarding listening experience. Inevitably The King Of Limbs will divide opinion but there is nothing new there, every Radiohead release since OK Computer has instigated furious debate. What this album will do is re-affirm already cemented opinions, providing ammunition for detractors as well as fuel for the fire that burns deep in the heart of Radiohead purists, thankfully I sit firmly in the latter camp.
I know next to nothing about Walk The Moon other than that they are an American indie/pop/rock band and they have a song called Anna Sun. This particular song has been lodged firmly in my head space for at least the last week, it’s by far the catchiest thing I have heard this year. What drags me in most is that it reminds me so strongly of Bleed American era Jimmy Eat World, it’s refreshing to hear a band pride themselves on pure pop melody unashamed and undeterred by any trends of distortion and lo-fi production. Furthermore the lyrics are great, “Your hands on my cheeks, your shoulder in my mouth, I was up against the wall on the West mezzanine, we rattled this town.” Most importantly they add that secret ingredient of retrospect, without which the whole thing would be un-relatable, after all I have no interest in the reckless abandon of todays youth, only the hedonistic memories of those my own age. I strongly recommend this tune, check it out below:
Walk The Moon – Anna Sun MP3 (Right Click / Save As)
The second installment of the AWIYEs Mixtape series is now available for download, featuring some songs I love loosely nestled within a theme I love. Click the image below to download:
Millersmixtape.MP3 (Right Click / Save As)
– Opening Theme
Six By Seven – England & A Broken Radio
Panda Bear – Atiba Song
Tshetsha Boys – Nwampfundla
Ga’an – Servant Eye
– Papa Papa
Blackbird Blackbird – Fade To White
– I think these guys are gonna Whack me
Soothsayer – III
Black Dice – Motorcycle
– Look to Your Heart
Wacka Flocka Flame – Live By The Gun (Feat Ra Diggs & Uncle Murda)
Lapti Nocow – Sirenas (Part 1)
– End Theme
The new TV ON The Radio record ‘Nine Types Of Light’ might not drop til April but the Brooklynites have wasted little time in giving us a taster, ‘Will Do’ is a silky number which sees the band continuing in the direction they were headed with ‘Dear Science’. I’m ok with this though, for me ‘Return To Cookie Mountain’ is as good as TV On The Radio will EVER get and I have made my peace with that. For this reason I have no expectations of any new material, I don’t mean this in a bad way, after all this mindset allowed me to enjoy Dear Science for what it was. No matter how over-produced or conventional TV On The Radio become ‘RTCM’ is locked away and in essence is completely untouchable. I worked hard on that record, spent a lot of time with it and reaped the benefits. ‘Will Do’ has taken far less time to get comfortable enough to open up, there is nothing buried beneath any layers and all instruments are given equal billing through the crisp production. For once, I don’t mean any of these things in a bad way, this is a great song. I love the mid-paced beat, xylophone, background guitar lick and the soulful vocals. I can’t wait to hear the album, just don’t expect TVOTR to go breaking any more barriers.
TV On The Radio – Will Do MP3 (Right Click / Save As)
Tyler the Creator and Hodgy Beats of Odd Future recently lit up Fallon with an incendiary and unforgettable performance, old-timers Raekwon and Ghostface Killah failed to excite in the same way earlier this week. Their performace was far more restrained and professional, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a little flat despite GFs best efforts to up any ante. I’m no less excited for the release of Raekwons new record ‘Shaolin Vs. Wu Tang’ though, which drops in a week or so, if his and GF’s last efforts were anything to go by it should restore any scales minutely tipped. Video and artwork below:
So this will be news to nobody but The King Of Limbs is out there, the band decided to surprise everybody by surprising nobody (retrospectively) and releasing it 24 hours ahead of schedule. As with any Radiohead album it is gonna take 25-100 listens to sink in and fully reveal itself but I thought it would be worth posting a kind of knee-jerk, instant reaction. I will post a full review of this thing once we have become more acquainted but as it stands I am on my fourth run through and wanted to get some thoughts out there. First impressions before even listening, it’s only 8 songs long and clocks in at less that forty minutes, the shortest Radiohead album yet by a fair distance. Without going in to specifics on the songs themselves the production is absolutely stunning, there seems to be some world music influences – maybe some Middle-Eastern tinged guitars, I’m also hearing some jazz improv type bass. It’s less organic sounding than In Rainbows, closer to The Eraser and I would say that it bears strong relevance to what has been happening in the dubstep/IDM scene since we last heard from the band. I don’t want to jump the gun with this or anything but with each listen the songs are becoming more clearly defined and as you would expect, it’s growing. Having said that, I would be inclined to say that during initial spins this is the most immediate that Radiohead have sounded for a long time, not necessarily in terms of songwriting but cetainly in terms of the beats. Time will tell if that’s just because I have become very well accustomed to its influences and inspirations of late, these guys clearly live and breathe contemporary music yet always manage to appear one step ahead of the game. It’s not The Bends by any stretch in its immediacy but I am feeling very, very excited about this album, from where I’m sitting right now it’s looking like they’ve done it again!
Track Listing goes a little something like this:
2. Morning Mr Magpie
3. Little By Little
5. Lotus Flower
7. Give Up The Ghost
Like I said, I will be posting a full review where I will go in to a lot more detail but in the meantime check out the video for album cut Lotus Flower below. For what it’s worth I am hating this video, for me personally it adds nothing to the song seeing Thom Yorke dance around in skinny jeans and a little black hat, listen with your eyes closed. Either that or just go download the record. Also, it may be a cliché but this thing gives a decent pair of headphones a run for their money and it sounds way better at close quarters than through speakers.
I had the most incredible experience hearing this track for the first time today whilst driving along a road that overlooks a breathtaking hilly landscape, this stunning view was ever so slightly shrouded in a thin layer of mist and at the precise moment that I happened to take in my surroundings, ‘Galactic Derelict’ was in full swing. Although this jam was most probably conceived and recorded in far more arid conditions, it provided the perfect backdrop for a spectacular slow-moving view. It’s a 7+ minute psych-guitar jam which has me pretty excited about the album ‘Beyond The 4th Door’ which is due to drop in March, the album title gives more away as to how this shit sounds than any sub-par adjectives I could come up with. Check the track out below:
Eternal Tapestry – Galactic Derelict MP3 (Right Click / Save As)
Further to my post yesterday, Tyler The Creator along with fellow OFWGKTA disciple Hodgy Beats completely nailed Fallon last night in what will probably go down in history as one of the most insane TV performances ever. The below video encompasses everything that I love about these guys, apart from the track ‘Sandwiches’ being a total winner, there were zombies, gnomes, The Roots, balaclavas and Mos Def losing all control of his tonsils. This shit is well, well worth checking out, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up:
One last thing, I very recently had to give up tickets to see Janelle Monae live due to being out of the country. I managed to catch on TV last night her performance at the Grammys, ‘Cold War’ is one of my favourite album cuts and seeing her completely smash it in the face got me incredibly depressed. Again, worth watching:
The new Akron/Family album ‘Akron/Family Explore The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT’ has been one of a long list of highlights so far this year, I would go as far as saying that it’s one of my favourites. I would love to review it but not only do I feel that I lack the vocabulary and mental capacity to describe it justly, I also lack context. What I mean by this is that while I have brushed shoulders with this band on a number of occasions in the past, I have never listened to one of their albums front to back. The main reason that I am enjoying this album so much is born out of apathy and boredom, the whole Americana thing has become incredibly boring to me of late. Recent albums by The Decemberists, Bright Eyes and Drive By Truckers have all been incredibly decent but due to nothing more than circumstance have passed through my ear canals like sandpaper. This record however has been aural Olbas Oil, it’s vast and expansive yet labirynth like in its complexity. Like some kind of progressive Americana that is both more visceral and more tribal than your average group of instrument swappers, Akron/Family have renewed my faith in an entire genre. There is some kind of paradox here, it is telling that I can hear both Local Natives and Flaming Lips in equal measure. There is plenty of intrigue and heresay around the recording of this album that I have paid no attention to, so to is there a back catalogue that I will be shamefully exploring. So, whilst I feel unable to express a fully informed opinion I do feel happy expressing my exuberance and excitement over the album in a knee-jerk manner and implore you to check out the opening track ‘Silly Bears’:
Akron/Family – Silly Bears MP3 (Right Click / Save As)
On a slightly more urban note, the news that Tyler The Creator has signed a one album deal with XL will surely mean that OFWGKTA are about to hit the big time. It was not only inevitable but sincerely deserved, this video for the track ‘Yonkers’ has been innescable for the past week but if you check it out it’s completely understandable. The beat is slow and sinister, the rhymes violent and descriptive, exactly what you would expect if you have been paying attention to what OFWGKTA have put out so far. What I love most about this is how Tyler gesticulates, his movements and body language are matched in intensity only by his eyes, it’s kind of sketchy but utterly compelling.
So, apparently Glassjaw releases are like busses, it’s been 9 long years since ‘Worship & Tribute’ but now in a few short months they have released two new Eps (check out my rather wordy review of the last one HERE). This particular release is being made available at shows the band are playing across America, and it feels more substantial than the last one, mainly because the material is unfamiliar. At six tracks and half an hour-long, ‘Coloring Book’ is gonna surprise a lot of people.
If ‘Our Color Green’ was nothing else, it was aggressive, across it’s five tracks there was very little in the way of actual singing and there was very little respite between riffs. ‘Coloring Book’ could not be any more of a contrast, there is nary a scream to be heard, there are verse-chorus-verse song structures and even a couple of tracks that could be described as being a little light on guitar. It is instantly evident that GJ have specifically grouped these two sets of songs together separately but what’s perplexing, is the reasoning for this. I’m wondering if this is an ‘All Delighted People’ kind of scenario whereby ‘Our Color Green’ was used as a kind of exorcism, an opportunity to get out of their systems a set of songs that have been hanging around for a long time but never released in studio format, a cleaning of the slate you might say. If this is the case then ‘Coloring Book’ must be seen as a dramatic change in direction for the band, I’m not convinced though. I see this new collection of songs as a companion piece to the last, both complimenting and contrasting one another. Very little light will be shed on the thought process behind this release though, no doubt GJ will remain tight-lipped on the subject.
Other than the shift in pace, there is also a very prominent change in mood. There seems to have been a very distinct progression from anger and aggression to a dark nervousness, there is a moody tension to this Ep not just in the vocals but in the production and use of very simple repetition in certain guitar refrains. It kind of reminds me of the Portishead album ‘Third’, not necessarily in style but in the industrial atmosphere and specifically the percussion. ‘Black Nurse’ kicks things off with some intense guitars and some menacing sound effects, Daryls vocals come in sounding particularly soul full here and it seems GJ have discovered groove. The first track makes way almost seamlessly for ‘Gold’ which initially seems like it is going to be a more typical GJ stomp, but the percussion and guitars make way for soaring choruses and again, more groove. This thing is heavy and intense, nobody should panic, it’s just that the band are approaching things in an entirely new way, this is the most experimental that I have known GJ to be.
Elsewhere, ‘Miracles In Inches’ provides one of the most memorable choruses over weird guitar effects and pulsing beats. The remaining two songs are quieter still, ‘Stations Of The New Cross’ features keyboards and some of Daryls best vocal work yet, his voice really shines when there is no need to strain and compete with his band losing it in the background. ‘Daytona White’ is both one of the quietest yet effective moments of GJs cannon so far, reverb laden guitar and soft rolling percussion provides an eerie and relaxing backdrop to Daryls emotive and soaring wail, check it out below.
I’m unsure as to how the GJ faithful will react to this Ep, I’ve been listening non-stop and the songs intricate nuances are still becoming apparent to me. But if the average GJ fan has nothing else, then they have patience so it is unlikely that this will be overlooked. Personally, I’m loving every song here and I find the shift in focus and style refreshing, I can’t help but feel though that if these two Eps were combined and mixed up a bit, we might be looking at the best GJ album yet.
This delightful number is lifted from the new Beach Fossils Ep ‘What A Pleasure’, I am loving the intro – the lush rich sounding guitar that gives way to the verse. I always mention Beach Fossils in the same breath as Wild Nothing, perhaps because they share a label but more likely because they share a certain aesthetic. Wild Nothings Jack Tatum actually features on ‘Out In The Way’, which is a great breezy lo-fi pop song that has plenty more going for it than reverb and shoegazy textures. Check it out below:
Beach Fossils – Out In The Way MP3 (Right Click / Save As)