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Wednesday, November 22, 2017 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
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+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
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+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
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+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
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Radiohead
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Hail To The Thief
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In the same season that Radiohead's OK Computer was released, I moved with my husband, infant son and Radiohead disc (along with a few other possessions) to Brussels. I spent the first several months in a quiet cocoon, with my husband at work, my baby asleep, and the gray mist of Belgium shielding the light and drowning out attempts to connect with my new city. I listened to OK Computer incessantly, not just because I found comfort in Thom Yorke's pleas to the clouds to rain down from a great height, but because it's the rare kind of album that can totally envelop its listener, fitting around whatever else is going on. I know I'm not the only one that felt an intensely personal relationship with this CD. This was its gift and its curse: It could be dark and secretive, while also speaking to the masses.

When Kid A, then Amnesiac were released, the band greeted me (and its legions of other fans) a little more coolly. While there were plenty of moments of musical genius, and plenty of moments when I felt the same connection to the music, Radiohead's experimentation with electronic equipment and effects had uneven results. The discs took a long time to warm up to, and those who didn't have the patience dumped the discs at their local CD traders.

Hail to the Thief has been called Radiohead's return to form, with more of the guitar rock that dominated their first two albums and less of the techno tinkering that made the recent discs mainstays in the secondhand bins. But it doesn't strike me as such. Granted, it opens with the sound of a guitar being plugged in, but this disc is still hanging to the apron strings of its two predecessors. It's a mix of OK Computer and the later two discs, as a child is a mix of both parents. And like a child, it has a tendency to whine.

Lots of good can come from rock bands mixing with electronica — and lots of good has come from Radiohead's techno noodling. But Thom Yorke sings from the back of his nose more often than he does from his gut. And without some warmth or balance from the instruments and arrangements, the whine can become acidic.

This isn't to say that Radiohead don't have a lot to whine about. From the title of the disc, which refers to President Bush's questionable election results, and through each song, Yorke captures the feeling that a wicked government and its wicked corporate sidekicks are closing in on us, even as weird viruses, misguided loved ones and bizarre weather patterns also keep us on edge. These are strange and frightening times, so I can understand a little whining. But when my CD is grousing in the background while in the foreground my 3-year-old moans her requests for water or a Band-Aid, I feel like screaming at both of them to lighten up.

This is, perhaps, exactly what the band wants to achieve. The music is not catchy — not even all that likeable at first. Fair-weather fans are immediately weeded out. But, for those who persist, with each listen, some lyric or sound catches the light and starts to shimmer. The single, "There There," is a good example of how this worked for me. Its fuzzy guitar sounds bland for Radiohead, and Yorke's voice heads pretty high here. But after a few listens, I noticed that as he warns "There's always a siren, singing you to shipwreck," I noticed the sirens in the background (likely a few band members), and their voices stayed in my head after I left the disc. It's a tiny moment in the overall song, but it beckoned me back to the disc, which from then on took on a new light.

"The Gloaming," buried in the middle of the disc, is one of the tracks that continues the band's bend toward techno — even perfects it. Like many of the songs that make up the disc, this one is intensely paranoid. The computerized blips come from every direction, though the music is mostly driven by a glitchy blend of static and thumping. It's part Pole, part 1980s horror-film soundtrack — and one of the most compelling on the CD. Yorke sings about the witching hour, which is upon us now that the genie's been let out of the bottle, in an echoing voice. As the music builds, he sings, "Your alarm bells should be ringing; they should be ringing," over and over. The music crackles brilliantly; the song could actually do without the vocals and stand alone. This is also true of "Backdrifts," which is built around a backward-playing loop, and the end of "Sit Down Stand Up," where Yorke sings, "The raindrops, the raindrops" urgently and breathlessly against a jungle beat.

One of the few songs to come from Yorke's gut rather than the back of his throat is "Where I End and You Begin." It's driven by a deep, rhythmic combination of bass guitar and drums, with a wailing wall of keyboards and effects behind. Yorke paints an eerie picture of the isolation at the end of a relationship: It's a desolate spot, where dinosaurs roam the earth. He sings, "I am up in the clouds/ And I can't/ I can't come down/ I can watch but not take part/ Where I end and where you start." Then anger sets in, and Yorke chants, "I will eat you alive/ And there'll be no more lies."

The last two songs on the disc do what Radiohead do best — foretelling doom and gloom amidst swirling guitars and keyboards. "A Wolf at the Door" alternates the pleasing and melodic guitars with a fast, monotoned nightmare narrative. It sounds like Yorke is rapping, but not in any kind of urban way. The keyboard phrase that repeats over and over gives a weirdly theatrical affect to the violent description of an approaching wolf. It's like a soundtrack for one of those gruesome Victorian fairy tales meant to scare children straight. But Yorke can't maintain the tough-guy stance that leans toward rapping. As the excitement builds and his delivery becomes faster, you can hear the high-pitched intakes of breath and the panic. He's still a tortured artist and nerd, talking in maths and buzzing like a fridge.


by Lori Miller Barrett




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