There is a span of songs on the In Rainbows tracklist—starting with the song “Nude,” picking up steam in “Weird Fishes,” culminating in “All I Need,” and finally culminating again in “Reckoner”—that is probably my favorite collection of music ever. It is perfect. And though Radiohead is a polarizing band, with critics considering it the greatest band since The Beatles, while many casual listeners aren’t fans at all, this album is the legendary band’s most accessible one. But while many experts understandably call OK Computer Radiohead’s masterpiece (and one of the best albums ever), I still don’t know how you can beat In Rainbows.
In typical Radiohead fashion, this album blends subtleties and nuances seamlessly. Lead singer Thom Yorke’s falsetto is haunting, and his challenging lyrics pose new perspectives and thoughts each time you listen to the album. Jonny Greenwood’s guitar and keyboard work is excellent—but even more brilliant is his orchestral arrangements in songs like “All I Need” and “Reckoner.” They both begin softly, only to gradually build up before ending in crescendos. And Jonny has always been a prodigy. He built a computer and his own software programs to record In Rainbows, his work as a composer on it is indeed magnificent, and his ability to play dozens of instruments extremely well is shocking. Sure, everybody in Radiohead is a musical genius, but these two lead members stand out.
In Rainbows is the type of profound music that will age like fine wine for many generations. Radiohead pushes the barriers of music—rather than allowing itself to be pushed, to merely float along with the current. This sense of transcendence perspires throughout the work. To be fair, you can’t listen to it passively. The thing about this band is that it exists somewhere in the gray areas between ambient music, indie music, electronic music, and futuristic experimental music that can’t be categorized. It is not the Nirvana that society expected it to be after Radiohead’s hit song “Creep” achieved iconic status. This band is not a rock band per se; it is the Pink Floyd of its generation, one that is misunderstood and misconstrued so often.
Some other songs on this album that stand out to me are “15 Step,” “House of Cards,” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place.” Then again, In Rainbows is more of a cohesive work, rather than an arbitrary collection of singles. And like a rollercoaster, the album cycles from one unique sound to another, from upbeat rock to nuanced orchestral music (though it cannot be trapped in the semantics of genres). It does so with a sense of wonder and curiosity and meticulousness that even Beethoven would admire. I know that people make fun of snobs for what they call the mindless showering of acclaim to Radiohead—but let me emphasize that this is my favorite band. I’ve waited a long time to review In Rainbows. I mean business. So plug in some nice headphones, clear your mind, and prepare for a sophisticated journey.