Radiohead - Amnesiac (2001), 8/10

It feels quite odd to admit that Amnesiac is my favorite Radiohead album. It was not the case for many years, but after spending decades listening to their music, it has remained the most refreshing and far-reaching of their works. Considering its background, these songs are not true b-sides or leftovers, this is a wholly different album from Kid A in theme and sound, even considering it was recorded in the same sessions. They form something impressively forward-thinking and telling of future experiments, it achieves an eternally enjoyable sound that is particular to this album and not seen in previous or future recordings. I prefer most tracks from this album over almost any from Kid A, an album that has a different story to tell, although in a similarly unique package. From my perspective, your preferred set of songs from this session is simply a matter of taste. Although perhaps a bit more disjointed in its ethos, Amnesiac has punchier songwriting and further staying power amongst its singles. The beauty of songs like "Knives Out" and "Like Spinning Plates" create a surreal atmosphere that is unmatched by much of the band’s work and sets the album apart in its own class. Try finding anything as experimental as “Pulk / Pull Revolving Doors” for example, it almost sounds like a Xenakis inspired composition. Radiohead simply have not approached anxious and complex sounds like these outside of Amnesiac. Its consistency is not unique among Radiohead albums, as there is rarely a jagged record in their discography apart from perhaps Pablo Honey, which yes, I do also enjoy. Still, there are the ambitious, deeply emotional compositions with impressive variation in dynamics; the peaks and valleys of a song like “You and Whose Army?” are as satisfying as they are moving. The genuine and intimate “I Might Be Wrong” is intoxicating in its rhythm and Thom’s grace is as apparent as ever to elevate such a personal theme. The album overall is much colder and more somber than much of their more accessible recordings, perhaps keeping it at arm’s length, especially during sections like “Dollars & Cents” that can feel more ambient and almost philosophically undefined at first approach. Yet with time it reveals concealed layers in its obscured harmony, featuring a surprisingly unique palette of sounds even within the Kid A sessions. Again contributing to its inaccessibility is a track such as “Like Spinning Plates”, a song I don’t even know what to compare to other than just to point out its surreal and ethereal textures layered with the obviously noticeable reversed recordings. Rather than expanding on existing themes, which Radiohead were one to do throughout their career, Amnesiac presents itself as its own individual manifestation of singular experiments that coalesce into a surprisingly holistic and thematically sound package. Clearly one of their most interesting albums, and in my view the highest quality and most meaningful listening experience the band has to offer. The newest pressing, which I am lucky enough to own, is superbly detailed and presents Amnesiac in its best form.