AOTY 2023
Radiohead - In Rainbows
Sep 13, 2020 (updated Jan 8, 2023)
In Rainbows by Radiohead. The final album in the mega trio widely considered their best work, this record is quite different from its predecessors. A much more upbeat beginning leads into a more introspective and mellow middle ground, which leads into a very depressive backside. Now, although In Rainbows is probably the least important album of the trio (the trio, of course, being: Ok Computer, Kid A, and In Rainbows), it is actually my favorite. Sure, OK Computer changed rock as we know it... sure, Kid A was a massive left turn for Radiohead and lead into more ventures, but In Rainbows is just... special. One of it's best qualities is how consistent it is, in fact, I would consider it their most consistent record. If you love one track from this album, you will probably love the whole thing.

It goes without saying that especially on this record, instrumentally & vocally it is perfect - paying attention to the mixing and mastering is very rewarding as it's obvious how much effort is put into it. I'd also say this may be one of Radiohead's more cohesive records, although probably not quite as much as OK Computer. This cohesiveness is largely due to how well each of these songs works together- although they may not lyrically match as well, instrumentally they all work perfectly.

This album takes you on a journey: a journey of life and death, a journey of acceptance and disappointment, a journey of existence. And it does so in just 42:39 minutes, 10 tracks, and with one voice. This is one of those records which just never gets old... the infection never seems to go away, and I always crave the sound every once and a while. Each time I come back to it I expect to find a flaw, something that doesn't fit properly, but I never do. I've probably listened to this album in its entirety over 40 times now, it's just so easy to get into and enjoy.

This record does not contain any skips at all, each song works practically perfectly right in the spot it's in and I wouldn't change that in any way. It's a very rainbow like experience: full of different kinds of thoughts and emotions, different places and people, different mental states, etc. It's a really unique listen. I'd say that as of now this may be my favorite Radiohead album. I also love this the B-Sides, and I recommend you check them out if you haven't.

--------------------------Track By Track Thoughts--------------------------
+15 Step - This has got to be one of my favorite Radiohead songs ever- there is something about this sound that just works so incredibly well and allows this song to become truly infectious. Every single little aspect works absolutely perfectly for this track, making for one of my favorite album openers of all-time.
-Bodysnatchers - One of Radiohead's fuzziest songs, similarly to 15 step every little extra detail works perfectly for creating a borderline psychedelic experience. The song itself has quite some lyrical content as well, discussing the feeling of pretending to be someone else in your life or acting as though you are someone you are truly not. A certainly very relatable discussion.
-Nude - Although there are quite some different opinions regarding the true meaning of this song, I think we can all agree on something: It's easily one of the most beautiful songs Radiohead has made. Lyrically and instrumentally the song creates a quite introspective attitude. It's a relaxing moment after the first 2 extremely energetic songs, and allows you to prepare for the next track.
+Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi - Another all-time favorite Radiohead song, this track combines everything which I love about Radiohead: experimentation, lyrical complexity, instrumental complexity, beautiful message and vocals, wonderful sound; it really has everything. I especially love the outro, gives me insane goosebumps every time.
-All I Need - A slow-burning emotional track with a wonderful build, which, similar to "Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi" has an absolutely fantastic outro. Something about the lyrics here saddens me greatly- but the track sounds amazing.
-Faust Arp - A very fast-paced track regarding being stuck in some sort of situation- the lyrics almost make it seem like its a relationship. Again, as per usual with this fantastic record, the instrumental and vocals are absolutely perfect- I can't imagine any improvements.
+Reckoner - Another favorite from the album- although it doesn't contain a massive amount of lyrical content, the instrumental and emotion are more than enough to tell its story. Some of the most beautiful parts of In Rainbows occur on this song, such as it's wonderful bridge.
-House Of Cards - A very struggle based song, which discusses the emotional torture and pain of loving someone who is already in a relationship- and a failing one at that. Also, what is with this album and its beautiful song outros?
+Jigsaw Falling Into Place - Wow. I'm just now realizing how good this album is... I mean Jesus Christ. This is another favorite of mine, in fact... this might be THE favorite. I'm not quite sure though. I believe this to absolutely be one of Radiohead's best songs: beautiful, powerful, and uplifting. One of the specific parts I enjoy the most is the end of the second verse, I always look forward to that "Dance... dance... dance... dance..."
-Videotape - Truly a beautiful way to say goodbye- the final track, a song about death, and looking back on your best memories. This is one of the most emotional song's Radiohead ever created, and definitely a massive highlight for the album. They really do love making closers don't they?

-------------------------------Original Review-------------------------------
Much like with Ok Computer, when I went into this album I already knew I was going to love it. This is because I had heard a good portion of these songs beforehand, but never in the context of the album.
Usually, even with albums, I give 100s, I can pinpoint exact points of the record that were a bit better than others. However, with In Rainbows, I really can't do that. This whole album is such a single experience that I absolutely love every track here the same.
Instrumentally this album is very complex and beautiful, the vocals by Thom are perfect and match the tone incredibly well, and overall everything in this record works to create a masterpiece.
And of course, the album ends off with a beautiful closer (as per usual).
It's amazing how many perfect albums Radiohead has created... their discography is one of a kind.
Also: I really, really love 15 Step. That's probably one of my favorite Radiohead songs of all time, which is saying something. I'm not sure why, but for some reason, I cannot get enough of that song in specific. Seems like every time I hear it I enjoy it even more. :)

Cover Art Discussion:
You know, I actually used to dislike this album cover quite a lot. Since then it's grown on me but I still wouldn't say it is near as perfect as OK Computer's or Kid A's. The explosion of color in the background does represent the album fairly well though, and the text in the foreground has grown on me a lot- I used to think it looked very out of place. As per usual with Radiohead's covers, I truly cannot imagine anything else representing this music, its really grown into it's role.

Track Ratings
115 Step / 100
2Bodysnatchers / 90
3Nude / 100
4Weird Fishes / Arpeggi / 100
5All I Need / 90
6Faust Arp / 80
7Reckoner / 100
8House of Cards / 100
9Jigsaw Falling Into Place / 100
10Videotape / 100
First thing I’ll say is you are a fantastic writer. I am just very confused by your rating system. I read that you said In Rainbows is as close to a perfect album as there is yet you gave it a 80. Kindly explain! Thank you.
@thepianoman Hey! Thank you. Since this review my love for this album has decreased and I haven't updated the review since. My rating scale is slightly harsh, however, I no longer see this record as the closest to perfection there is (that would go to my 95 & 100 ratings). Thank you for your comment again :)
@TomBejoy <3
So does Mr.Radiohead really have a head that’s shaped like a radio, or is that just a figment of my imagination?
Of course! My pleasure. But looks like you have 2 reviews a more up to date one and your original and in your most recent you stay: “In Rainbows is probably the least important album of the trio (the trio, of course, being: Ok Computer, Kid A, and In Rainbows), it is actually my favorite. In Rainbows is just... special. It's extremely consistent, in fact, I would consider it their most consistent record” 🤔 I for one am BIG big Radiohead fan, and think a 80 score is fine for In Rainbows as it’s not in my top 3, but still confused why you gave it an 80? lol
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