Radiohead released its eighth album, The King of Limbs, as a digital download this morning, a day earlier than expected. With eight tracks spanning 37 minutes, The King of Limbs is surprisingly short – but it’s also typically rich with electronic texture. Here, Rolling Stone critic Will Hermes takes you inside the album, track by track.
“Bloom” – A garden of blossoming loops: a piano phrase, some sputtering electronic noise, a killer snare drum fillip. Then, a minute in, Thom Yorke comes in like a voice from the great beyond. “Open your mouths wiiiiiiiiiiide,” he sings, vowels stretching out like Slinkys. A strange and handsome bit of string orchestration on the breakdown, like a chamber orchestra caught in a sandstorm.
“Morning Mr Magpie” – Clattering, hyperactive, pencil-neck funk with a spare guitar melody. “You stole it all/Give it back,” Yorke intones slowly. What a groove: with or without electronic intermediaries, Phil Selway is one of rock’s great drummers.
“Little By Little” – A steady bass pulse and an Arabic-scented melody unspool over junkyard gamelan beats and backward loops. When Yorke coos “I’m such a tease, and you’re such a flirt,” it’s curiously lonely-sounding – like he’s singing into his iPhone with the camera app flipped to reverse.
“Feral” – Radiohead messing around with some ideas from the world of dubstep, the bass-mad, UK-bred dance subgenre. Abstract, loopy, throbbing.
“Lotus Flower” – A song Yorke played last year in a number of solo shows, with some haunting falsetto. It sounded great with just his hollow-body electric, and sounds equally great here, with Phil Selway’s head-snap beats, a curtain of synths, and some spacy vocal effects. (Watch the video for “Lotus Flower” below.)
“Codex” – A somber, gorgeous piano ballad with muffled beats and some beautiful string arrangements performed by The London Telefilmonic Orchestra. “Jump off the end/into a clear lake/noone around,” Yorke croons. A song about washing yourself clean in a world of dirty water.
“Give Up The Ghost” – An acoustic guitar strums slowly alongside a loop of Yorke gently singing “don’t hurt me,” while he versifies stunningly over the top, vocals refracting through prisms of electronics. “I think I have had enough,” he declares at one point. Not us.
“Separator” – Closing out a brief record (37 minutes) that features some of Thom Yorke’s prettiest and most inventive singing, Yorke tells of a woman that “blows her cover” over Phil Selways funky drumbeats, while a chorus of ghostly Thoms babble incoherently in the right channel. The guitar lines
sound like ghosts too – maybe waiting to be reborn on the next Radiohead album?
Video for “Lotus Flower”:
The King of Limbs [Official site]