Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” revisited for 10th anniversary


Graphic by Aidan Prehatny

by Noah Callahan, Contributer

From crushing, jagged beats that move rapidly, to vulnerably dreadful piano solos, “In Rainbows” continues to provoke an astounding array of emotion after 10 years.

Released in 2007, Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” maintains a fresh, colorful and thrilling sound that displays some of the band’s best work.

The progression the album sustains from front to back is astonishing, holding together juxtaposed tracks that vary in sound.

From the striking lyrics Thom Yorke sings in an unforgettable performance, to unique drum patterns that veer from tradition, to dynamic string sections, swirling guitar licks, bass lines and emotional piano chord progressions and melodies, every moment of the album is unforgettable.

Radiohead explores some of its most raw, abrasive elements in this album.

One example is “Bodysnatchers,” a raw, in-your-face distorted track where basslines race throughout.

As Yorke’s vocals come in, he remains calm, juxtaposing the bass line and rapid drums. These vocals fade through the end of the opening chorus. The music slowly rises in intensity alongside Yorke’s backing improvisations through the rest of the track.

After hitting the apex of “Bodysnatchers,” the song dives into raw guitar licks and driving drums as Yorke’s increasingly eager and anxious vocals repeat “They’ve seen it coming.”

On “In Rainbows,” Radiohead allows the string section to make its way to the front of the mix, driving the tracks.

This is best showcased on “Faust Arp,” as sweeping strings glide in quick succession.

Faust Arp opens with arpeggiating guitars that fill the track with melodic rhythms that are quickly engulfed by growing strings.

The strings begin to fade into the track low with rhythmic bass lines that linger. Slowly these low melodies are accompanied with high, accented strings that parade the track with impressive velocity.

The forward mixed strings give this album a unique, stand-out sound.

Radiohead drives this album with full bass lines alongside stunning vocal performances that can not be forgotten.

For example, “All I Need” opens with heavenly low-pass-filtered strings mixed alongside rhythmic drums which soon become overpowered by a rich, heartbreaking bass line that resonates through the mix.

This helps amplify Yorke’s rich vocal performance as he’s placed in front of everything else in the mix.

To replicate the rippling bass, his close proximity to the recording microphone allows his voice to carry across the track.

As this track comes to an end, Radiohead incorporates emotional piano chords.

Nowhere is this album more emotional, and nowhere is Yorke more vulnerable, than when he and the piano are brought to the front of the mix together.

Radiohead does this best on the track “Videotape.”

“Videotape” opens with heartbreaking piano chords that are shortly accompanied by Yorke’s depressing vocal performance.

The occasional bass throughout the beginning track emphasizes the piano, increasing the emotional intensity. Alongside this, another piano plays occasional, high velocity notes to shape the landscape of the track.

The piano emphasizes Yorke’s vocal performance as the second verse comes to an end with Yorke singing in an emotionally drained tone “I shouldn’t be afraid because I know today has been the most perfect day I’ve ever seen.”

The track goes on without Yorke, with strange, distorted live drum samples and subtle, electronic drums that ride alongside the emotional chords of the piano.

As this song and the album come to a close, all that is left is the emotional chords of the piano to end “In Rainbows.”