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100 Albums: "Amnesiac" by Radiohead

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Radiohead
Title: Amnesiac
Released: 2001
Genre: Pretentious art-rock


Radiohead came into their own with OK Computer--an album that successfully bridged alt-guitar-rock with arty euro-dance while also celebrating Douglas Adams. To follow it up, they wrote and recorded two albums worth of material at once. The weirder stuff became 2000's Kid A, and the (slightly) more normal-for-Radiohead songs became Amnesiac. Both are incredible, dense, and surprising, but Amnesiac is my favorite of the two by a thin margin.

The lead single, Pyramid Song, is sad and beautiful and one of my favorite songs by this or any band. Two more all-time faves found on this record: You And Whose Army? and Like Spinning Plates. Fun fact: The band had a song called I Will that just wasn't working, so they played it backwards and thought that sounded interesting, so vocalist Thom Yorke learned the melody backwards and penned new lyrics, and that's where Like Spinning Plates came from. Two years later, a sped up, reconfigured version of I Will appears on Hail To The Thief.

Those songs are all kind of downers, but there's some good uplifty fun on this album as well: I Might Be Wrong is a rocker with one hell of a guitar lick at its core. Knives Out is danceable, and Dollars And Cents is a nice breezy groove. The final track, Life In A Glasshouse has a lounge-hall jazz vibe that I really dig, along with some great opening lyrics.
Once again I'm in trouble with my old friend
She is papering a window pane, she is putting on a smile
The only songs that I don't absolutely adore are Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors which is almost too weird even for me, and Morning Bell/Amnesiac. That's a good song, but a better version of it (in a more interesting time signature) was already released on Kid A.

Further listening: If not for my one-album-per-artist rule, the list would definitely include OK Computer, Kid A, Hail To The Thief, and probably In Rainbows as well. It was just a ten year stretch of incredible music. I'll point you towards some favorite non-Amnesiac tracks: The National Anthem, Reckoner, A Wolf At The Door, and the Kid A version of Morning Bell.

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