After the triumph of OK Computer, Radiohead fell into a creative tailspin -- and frontman Thom Yorke into a nervous breakdown. Exhausted from touring, hounded by press, and jaded by copycats, he escaped into the electronica scene pioneered by Kraftwerk and Warp Records -- fertile ground, the band discovered. Trading spacey rock for apocalyptic brooding, they teased their new sound not with singles or music videos but with innovative web streaming and cryptic, dreamlike "blips" -- winterlands, flocks of cubes, eyeballs, bears. After nearly breaking up over tracklist angst, they cut the kid in half. Thus fifteen years ago today, Kid A and (later) Amnesiac debuted, a confounding mix of electronic fugue, whalesong, pulsing IDM, drunken piano, and epic jazz funeral whose insights into anxiety, political dysfunction, and climate crisis would make it one of the most revered albums of the twenty-first century. See the documentary Reflections on Kid A for interviews and live cuts, or look inside for much more. [more inside]
Help Solve the Mystery! Who is the woman on the cover of the Otis Redding album Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul? On the 50th anniversary of the album, the Estate of Otis Redding asks for assistance in identification. [more inside]
"The Yellow Album isn’t an album so much as the most dramatic test of a true believer’s faith since God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The album dares Simpsons diehards like myself to make it through a harrowing 48-minute gauntlet of ill-considered covers, train-wreck collaborations (Lisa and P-Funk All Stars: oh, it happened), generic synth-pop grooves, and jokes that would be killed in Jay Leno’s writers’ room for being insufficiently edgy. " - My World OF Flops on the bizarre, unloved Simpsons cash-in, "The Yellow Album. " complete with sample tracks.
Creating Art from Failure. Take one epochal album by one of rock's legendary bands (called "one of the dullest and most confusing albums I've heard this year" by Rolling Stone on its release.) Name it after the nickname the band has given the venues where they appear, and for which they had written a song, which they neglected to put on the album itself. And then there's the album cover ... [more inside]
In the wake of their grunge-y breakout hit "Creep" and the success of sophomore record The Bends, Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead were under pressure to deliver once more. So they shut themselves away inside the echoing halls of a secluded 16th century manor and got to work. What emerged from that crumbling Elizabethan castle fifteen years ago today was a shockingly ambitious masterpiece of progressive rock, a visionary concept album that explored the "fridge buzz" of modernity -- alienation, social disconnection, existential dread, the impersonal hum of technology -- through a mosaic of challenging, innovative, eerily beautiful music unlike anything else at the time. Tentatively called Ones and Zeroes, then Your Home May Be at Risk If You Do Not Keep Up Payments, the band finally settled on OK Computer, an appropriately enigmatic title for this acclaimed harbinger of millennial angst. For more, you can watch the retrospective OK Computer: A Classic Album Under Review for a track-by-track rundown, or the unsettling documentary Meeting People is Easy for a look at how the album's whirlwind tour nearly gave Yorke a nervous breakdown. Or look inside for more details and cool interpretations of all the tracks -- including an upcoming MeFi Music Challenge! [more inside]
In their 25 year career San Fransisco-based Kronos Quartet might be most famous for creating the go-to dramatic movie trailer music but they've recently courted controversy with their latest album, 9/11, with Steve Reich (NPR First Listen). The album is another in a long line of collaborations with composers such as Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, and Pēteris Vasks. And like any good instrumental ensemble, they've covered Hendrix, Sigur Ros, and Tom Waits. Oh, and they've been on Sesame Street. [more inside]
Westminster Gold reissued classical albums in the seventies. The covers could be racy [slightly NSFW], unusual, puzzling, irreverent, and employ national stereotypes, but my favourites are the literal puns like Pops Promenade and Allegri String Quartet.
And the Grammy Award for most unfortunate album cover art goes to... The Coup! (Thankfully this rap group has already announced that they will change the cover to this CD.)