A podcast that unlocks the alchemy of Radiohead — one song, music video, or live performance at a time.
In each episode we will interview a critic, musicologist, musician, director, or other noteworthy fan about a specific feature in Radiohead’s work to discover what makes the band’s sound so distinct and so enduring.
When Yorke Met Björk
"Daydreaming" / Radiohead Come Full Circle
From the beginning, Radiohead kept their focus on the future.
When critics heralded OK Computer as the savior of rock, Radiohead renounced the genre and turned to the electronic sounds of Kid A. When the band perfected a hybrid acoustic sound in In Rainbows, they pivoted next to the digital loops and polyrhythms of The King of Limbs. Every record was an opportunity to experiment and to reinvent themselves.
So when fans heard the reflective tone of Radiohead’s ninth studio album, several wondered if it was their last. Instead of heralding the band’s next move, the record offered a thoughtful rumination on their 24 years together. A bookend to their story.
In this episode Pitchfork Senior Editor Ryan Dombal and I will explore A Moon Shaped Pool’s reckoning with the past through the “Daydreaming” music video. Although this video spawned numerous fan theories, we’ll condense these ideas into three distinct lenses of interpretation. We’ll discuss why this open-endedness is one of the video’s greatest strengths and what it reveals about Radiohead’s attitude towards their fans.
Sonic Allusions in "Idioteque" and "Pyramid Song"
After the wild success of OK Computer, Radiohead was under immense pressure from critics and fans to provide a worthy follow-up. Several hoped for an OK Computer part two, with the same intricate, guitar-based melodies.
But the band was burnt out. After several years of touring and promoting their third record, Thom Yorke became ill, and Phil Selway said the band was worried that their success had turned them into a one-trick band. Plus, according to Colin Greenwood, the band felt like they needed to completely reinvent themselves after other groups began adopting OK Computer-esque sounds.
Disillusioned with rock music, and feeling the genre had run its course, Yorke turned to electronica artists like Aphex Twin. Their emphasis on sounds and textures over melody and lyrics intrigued Yorke. So he put down his guitar, sat down at the piano, and began experimenting. The first song he wrote was “Everything In Its Right Place,” which would become the opening track on Kid A. This album revolutionized Radiohead’s sound and was later heralded as the best album of its decade by both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.
In this episode we'll learn about the layers of musical history embedded in Radiohead's work from this period. Bob Fink, chair of the Music Industry Minor at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music, will discuss the musical influences that formed “Idioteque” and suggest how Kid A as a whole precursors contemporary music. Then we’ll hear from another musicologist from the UCLA School of Music: Jessica Schwartz. She’ll examine “Pyramid Song,” which was also developed during the Kid A sessions. Although recorded during the same period as “Idioteque,” it was not released until the following year on the band’s follow-up record, Amnesiac. And in contrast to the electronica of “Idioteque,” “Pyramid Song” bears a greater resemblance to the music of jazz greats like Charles Mingus.
"Nude" / A 10-Year Evolution
Whether they know it or not, fans who attend Radiohead performances are witnessing music history as it is being written. And I’m not just saying that because I’m obsessed enough with Radiohead to make a podcast about them. I say that because Radiohead often tests unreleased or in-progress songs through their live performances.
Sometimes those tracks surface in the very next album — like “The Bends,” which we discussed in our last episode. But sometimes they don’t appear until several years later.
In this episode we’ll explore the history of “Nude” — the third track on the band’s beloved seventh record, In Rainbows. We’ll compare its early live performances to the final studio version and discuss what this tendency, to not release a song until the arrangement is just right, says about Radiohead as a band.
Between the Lines: Analyzing Radiohead's Lyrics
Understanding Radiohead's lyrics is a common complaint for first-time listeners. It almost makes me wonder if “Creep” was such a hit because, in part, you can understand the lyrics so well. Whereas with songs like “The Gloaming” or “The National Anthem,” you may only pick up on every other word.
Thankfully we have websites like Genius to clear things up.
If you don’t know, Genius is a website that publishes official lyrics and then crowd-sources annotations and interpretations. The site also does artist interviews and additional research to verify the stories behind certain lyrics. So Ken Partridge, senior editor at Genius, knows a thing or two about uncovering a song’s history and evaluating how that history may influence our understanding of the lyrics.
In this episode, Ken and I will dissect the song “The Bends” — untangling the various meanings of its title and discussing how its past may change your interpretation. And then we’ll hear from pianist David Bennett, who analyzes Radiohead’s music and lyrics on his YouTube channel David Bennet Piano. He’ll offer a fan’s perspective on the lyrics of “Subterranean Homesick Alien” from OK Computer. Because some of the greatest lyrical interpretations I’ve heard have stemmed from fans who simply analyze Radiohead for fun.
In Defense of "The King of Limbs"
After the tremendous success of In Rainbows, Radiohead fans expected an explosive follow-up record. Instead, they received 37 minutes—the band's shortest yet—of synthesized loops, rhythmic layers, and restrained vocals. For that and other reasons, The King of Limbs is often found near the bottom of fans' "Best Of" lists. But Deepcuts creator Oliver Kemp argues that the album is beautiful and inventive in its own right, and that "The King of Limbs: Live From the Basement" brings this innovation to the forefront.
This broadcast was released about ten months after the The King of Limbs and includes performances of all eight tracks from the record—as well as a few singles. Modeled after their previous live video album for In Rainbows, the sessions were produced by Nigel Godrich and televised internationally. Clive Deamer of Portishead joined Phil Selway to execute the album’s complicated polyrhythms, while a horn section was added to fill out the sound of songs like “Bloom” and “Codex.” Together, they breathed new life into these oft-maligned songs.
Found late, I hope there will be more
Wonderful, detailed insight into the greatest band of their generation. Not nearly enough episodes made, I hope more will come.
All I’ve Ever Wanted in a Podcast
I am obsessed with this podcast and I feel like the perfect audience for it. Can’t wait for more episodes!!
Pretty Much Perfection
This podcast is absolutely fantastic. I love Savannah, her questions and editing are stellar. The guests are intelligent and super interesting to listen to. I love Radiohead, but typically hate podcasts (just as far as pacing). THIS, though, has converted me. Can’t wait for more. [Insert Radiohead Pun Here]