All of a sudden, pretty much every Radiohead song ever released has ended up on Youtube. This includes not just their main albums but even the music track they did for the James Bond movie Spectre and a lot of their side-albums and unreleased stuff. Why? I have no idea. But I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth because I’m too busy listening to Radiohead. Seriously, pretty much every song is here, and you can access all of them on Youtube via their albums here.
How did I get into Radiohead? I’m not really sure, it’s just something the parents listened to (mostly my dad) and it’s something I continued to do. To the point that I have Hail to the Thief on vinyl and the King of Limbs deluxe edition sitting on my shelf.
Anyway, there’s a LOT of Radiohead music to get through, so in today’s article, I’m going to list my favourite songs from each of the main albums. One song per album. Then afterwards I’m going to rifle through all their more obscure and unreleased stuff.
Decks Dark – A Moon Shaped Pool
I was never really a fan of A Moon Shaped Pool. There’s something about it that kinda makes the songs meld into one long song, which weakens them as standalone tracks. In fact, on my first listen, only one track stood out. But on later listens, Decks Dark suddenly… existed? It’s a horribly tragic and beautiful song that somehow got caught up with the rest of A moon Shaped Pool. On its own in a vacuum, Decks Dark feels like a far better song. Like many Radiohead songs, Decks Dark is rather haunting, but more so because this is obviously about losing someone, but also watching that someone slip away forever, terrified and unable to escape their fate.
Little by Little – King of Limbs
This song is an odd one. It kinda feels somewhat chirpier than other songs on The King of Limbs but it’s also just as gloomy as the rest of the album. But Little by Little also feels more complete and more like its own thing and a bit more natural. I don’t really know how to explain how Little by Little stands out above other songs, especially since Lotus Flower is also amazing. Maybe it just has better lyrics, which are a big part of what makes me like a song.
Reckoner – In Rainbows
Reckoner is amazing. The In Rainbows album is all round a good album and I like almost all the songs on it, but Reckoner is insanely… I don’t want to say it’s deep, because it’s kinda high-pitched, but it’s just so… loud and everywhere, and has a powerful flow to it, a few ebbs and flows before expanding dramatically. Reckoner though more importantly HAS to be played at a loud volume to really get the most out of it. Funnily enough, Reckoner has the only Radiohead song covered by someone else that I genuinely love almost as much as the original version – Gnarls Barkley did an amazing cover of this song.
Where I End and You Begin – Hail to the Thief
It’s the base and drums that get me in Where I End and You Begin. Sure, the vocals are great but there’s something about the drums, combined with the strange almost wails in the background that give this song a somewhat mystical vibe with almost… evil undertones. There’s definitely something dark going on in this song and how it will eat you alive. Where I End and You Begin almost feels like a continuation of There There or perhaps another view of it. Either way, when listening to this, all I can imagine is being lost in a great divide.
Pyramid Song – Amnesiac
I’ve mentioned Pyramid Song before, but there’s something genuinely haunting about this song. What is it? I don’t understand it? I wrote all the other pieces of text while listening to their respective songs, but with Pyramid Song, I just… can’t… I mean, I can try and escape at first, but when the drums come in half way through, that’s it, I’m trapped. Pyramid Song, in my opinion, is an amazing, ungodly song that leaves me feeling hollow when it ends.
Idioteque – Kid A
Idioteque is a weird song. It’s more… electric than most of the songs on this list, but there’s something about it that weirdly reminds me of my childhood, but in two different ways – hearing this song in the car on a trip while passing through St. Albans but also… hearing it while playing old games on the PS2. I think the later is caused by the fact that I used to believe there was a squeaking teddy bear in this game or something. Memories of this song are also tied to a weird PSOne game that I remember playing, a weirdly violent top-down shooter I don’t remember the name of. Whatever it is, I don’t know, but the original intention of the song, talking about climate change and catastrophe and people ignoring it until the last minute, is a warning we should heed.
Let Down – OK Computer
Picking a song from OK Computer is actually pretty hard, since the whole album is a masterpiece. This song won, by a tight margin. Let Down just about sums up being, well, down. But also not being down. It starts off about how everything is glum and horrible and what’s the point, but Let Down slowly rises up. How does it rise up? I’m not sure. Is the whole growing wings thing a euphemism for drugs or suicide? I don’t know. Either way, Let Down is beautiful.
Fake Plastic Trees and Sulk – The Bends
The Bends is almost as much a masterpiece as OK Computer is. While OK Computer, at least in my opinion, is when Radiohead became their own separate entity, The Bends is the dramatic build up to that where Radiohead were still somewhat a rock/alternative band. Fake Plastic Trees is probably the most amazing track on an album of amazing tracks, a crescendo of powerful emotions. Not positive emotions, dark, depressing ones, all tied up in a heavy bow of realism. It speaks to the inevitability of things, how we are worn down by our imperfections and our trying to be perfect.
Sulk though is something else entirely. It summarizes all the pressure and anger someone can feel and how they lash out. It was written as a reaction to the Hungerford Massacre, a spree of random shootings in Hungerford in the UK in 1987. It’s a horrible subject but Sulk makes it beautiful and almost painful. It burns my heart and burrows into my soul. No one really knows what happened that day, but it’s a pretty harrowing and depressing track while also… I don’t want to say that it speaks out to me, but it’s somehow a reminder that anyone can snap at any moment.
Stop Whispering – Pablo Honey
I could have been obvious and picked Creep, but Stop Whispering feels… somehow more relatable. It’s clearly very early in Radiohead’s career and nothing’s properly developed yet but the messages are all still there. The theme of Stop Whispering though is clear and obvious and it still makes a strong argument to this day.
Bonus track: 2+2=5 Live at Earls Court – Com Lag
This one gets a mention not because it’s a great song (it is a great song, even live) but because I was actually there when it was recorded. Somehow my parents had managed to get tickets to see Radiohead and took me along to see it, even though I was just a little kid. While it’s not the best song on the album (Fog (Again) is probably the best track), it’s still pretty damn amazing, especially since you don’t get a lot of live tracks on the base albums.
But you shouldn’t listen to me. These may be my favourite songs, but I implore you to go and have a listen on your own. Preferably with some headphones on, in a comfy chair. Radiohead may be rather glum at times, but their music is beyond beautiful.