Let’s cut the shit. I’m gonna tell you the real, ultimate, super best Radiohead song of all time, ever. It’s…
It’s “Reckoner.” I’m gonna have a tough time explaining why, but let’s work backwards from this video. I can watch it a thousand times and still get chills when the instruments drop out and we’re left alone with Thom’s voice. That’s gotta be one of the most perfect sounds ever captured on tape. Then, with no fanfare or buildup, the instruments return, just the same as before, but somehow they feel oversaturated and doubly potent. It’s such an incredible moment.
I’d love to be able say “Reckoner” represents everything good about Radiohead, but that’s not really true. It doesn’t have any of the dark, paranoid, or unsettled energy that characterizes much of their best work. But I do think it’s the most beautiful song they’ve written. The guitar is melodic and perky, but restrained in a wonderfully tantilizing way, leaving room for the insistent percussion to fill the song with a rush of percolating optimism.
So yeah, I adore the song. If I had to listen to a single track on repeat for the rest of my life, from Radiohead or anyone else, I’d choose “Reckoner”. It’s as good as it gets.
“Lotus Flower” definitely has a nice meaty groove, but I’m not sure I agree that the band has never been sexier. I think you’re forgetting this extremely masculine feat of physical coordination from the “Street Spirit” video:
Okay, maybe not.
Anyway, for my money, “Street Spirit” is the strongest song from Radiohead’s early period. In it, you can see the band dabbling in the more atmospheric and heavily produced sounds that defined their wonderful experimental phase. The song feels forboding and mysterious, with undertones that hint at something even more sinister. It builds steadily, propelled (as all great Radiohead songs are) by a masterful performance from Yorke. I love the way he sings the “strain I am under” part; I can’t think of another rock vocalist who could impart so much pathos to a lyric that’s actually kind of wonky.
I tried my best not to look up any setlists before the concert, but some punk kid told me there was a chance they’d do “Street Spirit,” and when they didn’t, I was pretty bummed.
I had similar a feeling during the show we saw, when the arena turned green and “Myxomatosis” howled into life.
Now, I know that “Myxomatosis” is not the best Radiohead song. It’s always been one of my favorites from Hail to the Thief, but the recorded version doesn’t reach the same heights as the others we’re talking about here. But in concert, that distorted guitar changes from a neat effect to a thundering roar. Yes, music often sounds better live simply because it’s louder, but this was more than volume. That guitar rattled some deep part of me. I’ve often thought that Radiohead would be delighted to write the soundtrack for the apocalypse, and that sound could kick the whole thing off.
I watched a ton of recordings of the song from their current tour, and often the guitar simply overwhelms the microphone. Of course, it’s impossible to truly capture the effect on a smartphone, but I think this one comes closest:
Oh, and if you’re curious (and I know you are), this is the best video of Thom Yorke dancing to “Myxomatosis.” We could probably do another series just breaking down his moves.
“Idioteque” is a good choice; it’s way up there for me too.
The first song that springs to my mind is “Paranoid Android,” which I know is sort of ridiculous, considering that it’s on the same album as “Karma Police,” “No Surprises,” and “Lucky,” all of which are arguably more nuanced and interesting. But I started listening to Radiohead ten years ago, when I was 15, and what does a teenager care for musical complexity? So this pick is dedicated to high school me.
“Paranoid Android” is a typhoon of angst, scored by a virtuosic rock band at its most cathartic. For all its virulent social commentary and dystopian imagery, the core tension in the song, the line that transforms the foreboding bass line into a snarling guitar-driven monster, is “why don’t you remember my name?” The true paranoia of the song is borne from insecurity; its sneering violence is just lashing out. What could be more teenage than that? And before we get too far up our own asses about all the subtle details that make this band so special, I want to recognize that rock and roll, fundamentally, is meant to be music for young people with more feelings than they can handle. You may disagree, but to me, “Paranoid Android” captures that spirit even better than “Creep.”
Plus, I’ve never had more fun mangling a song at karaoke.
We both saw Radiohead last week, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t really put the experience into words. I’ve seen them three times and I honestly feel a little guilty that I’ve been so lucky. It doesn’t even seem fair to compare them to other bands; they’re at another level entirely. So lets compare them to themselves. What’s the best Radiohead song?
You make good points about the appeal of food photography; my question probably went a little too far.
In terms of writing that introduces a recipe, at first blush, it seems pretty superfluous to me. I almost always skip that bit on food blogs because it’s usually some cutesy story about kids or gushing about how delicious the food is, which, y’know, I’ll be the judge of that. And in cookbook recipes, there’s usually not much of a preamble, and it’s basically just part of the recipe anyway.
But I did think of a piece of food-related, recipe-based media where the framing is much more important than the recipe itself: Good Eats. I’m pretty into cooking now, and I can trace it all back to Alton Brown’s goofy food science show. (I even wrote an ode to it a few years ago that I’m only somewhat embarrassed by now.) I don’t think I still use any of Alton’s recipes today, but I employ techniques and knowledge I got from Good Eats every time I’m in the kitchen.
I also recently picked up a huge classic book on French cooking called La Varenne Pratique, which I think will follow a similar pattern. I’m not too interested in the dishes it contains, but I’m very excited to learn the skills it describes. So, there’s one case where the introduction to a recipe really matters: when it’s trying to teach you something you will use long after the food is consumed.
Well, the first thing you should do is date someone who subscribes to about a million food blogs and can find like eight interesting recipes for anything you want to cook just by searching her Google Reader.
Okay, that might not be an option for everyone.
So, when I want to try a new dish, like you I usually check out trusted sources first (Cook’s Illustrated or googling “[food item] + thomas keller” are perennial favorites), but sometimes that doesn’t work and you have to turn to a brute force search. The onslaught of recipes online can be pretty daunting, so I have a simple rule for weeding through them. I look for recipes that include one element I know how to do, and one I don’t.
For example, I wanted to make lentil soup a while back, which I had never tried before. I searched Epicurious, which gave me a stupid amount of results. I could have picked a soup that uses yeast (?) and features “date balls,” which I’m sure is delicious but is totally unfamiliar to me, but instead I went with a simple French lentil soup. It’s just classic tomato soup, which I know how to do, plus lentils. At this point, it’s basically a science experiment: I’ve controlled for tomato soup, both in preparation and taste, so the only variable is lentils. I learned a lot about how they cook and how their flavor affects a soup just from making this one easy recipe.
And now that I’ve got that one under my belt, I kinda wonder how it would taste with yeast.
Alright, I’ve got a question for you. You mentioned food blogs and, specifically, how they’re full of pretty pictures. Why is this so appealing? Isn’t it basically the same technique that fast food commercials use? Is it, ultimately, somewhat deceptive and shallow?
Since I’ve gotten more into sports over the past year, this question has become very (VERY) important to me. There’s only one team from my native Colorado I could never root against, the Avalanche of the NHL, who supplied me with childhood memories and heroes. Even though the Broncos won their Super Bowls when I was at an impressionable age, I feel no connection to them, and the Rockies and Nuggets stank when I was younger, so I barely even paid attention to those guys. Sure, I’ll bandwagon hard for a Colorado team if they’re hot, but otherwise I have no interest in hitching my emotional wagon to mediocre stars.
But, as you say, sports are fun because you get to care passionately about something meaningless, so I need to root for someone. How do I choose?
I’m currently most into the NBA, so I’ll use that as my example.
Based on a hypothetical and surprisingly emotional tournament I just played out in my head, here are my favorite teams, in order of who I’d root for if they played each other:
So what do these teams have in common?
For one, they’re all led by great, exciting, likable, slightly sub-mainstream MVP candidates (Durant, Rondo, Rose, STAT, respectively). I like it when players I feel strongly about do incredible things, and these guys deliver reliably.
Second, they all have playoff aspirations, but carry the air of slight underdogs. (I know this doesn’t sound right for the Celts, seeing how they came a quarter away from the championship last season, but their bad beat then and surprising defiance of their old age this year give them the edge I’m looking for.) It’s fun to cheer for teams that have a shot at winning it all, but aren’t quite the favorite. Otherwise, you’re fixing to either get your hopes dashed, or you’re basically rooting for Wal-Mart, Microsoft, or the Yankees.
Third, I’ll admit that, being a recent convert to the NBA, I’m probably caught up in the hype a little, since all of these teams are kinda media darlings. I’m fine with this.
I’m not saying these criteria are how you or anyone else should choose teams. Rather, and I know this might sound like heresy to people who only root-root-root for the home team, I think it’s smart to buy into teams that suit your aesthetic preferences. I’m having so much fun watching basketball this year because “my” teams are good now and they play the kind of ball I want to watch. It sure as hell beats pretending to care as the apathetic Nuggets slouch around the court, waiting for their star player to leave them.
So basically you should root for the Packers because they’re fucking rad, Aaron Rodgers is crazy good (or is that crazy/beautiful?), and all of America loves them. I mean, there’s really nothing wrong with jumping on the bandwagon, is there?
Check out my cat.
Wait, is that a totally uninteresting image from my life, gussied up with a gratuitous sepia filter? That’s right! It’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite new social mobile hipster vintage photo sharing service, Instagram!
I first downloaded the iPhone app a couple months ago, when Gruber posted it. It seemed well made, but neither he nor I could see the point in it. At the time, he said, “The app is nice, but I can’t see why I’d use the sharing service instead of Flickr.” That made all the sense in the world to me. I deleted the app before sharing a single photo.
Fast forward to last week, when Instagram announced it had surpassed one million users. That’s astonishing growth for a social network that only works on one mobile platform.
What’s going on here? I’m perplexed, but then again, I’m the guy who suggested we do an entire week on VYou, a site which now seems pretty doomed. I’m clearly missing a piece of the puzzle when it comes to evaluating new social networks. So, what makes Instagram such a hit?
Pitchfork posted their top 20 today. I’m gonna give us both credit for being pretty close with our predictions.
But the real reason we’re talking about their list is because you noticed that in past years there were some interesting discrepancies between the score they gave an album upon its release, whether it was granted the illustrious distinction of “Best New Music,” and then where it landed on their year-end best albums list. Since Pitchfork speaks with such a loud voice in this relatively small cultural scene, it seemed worth looking into that further. So here are some figures from this year.
First up, here’s their Best Albums of 2010 list, along with review scores for each album and whether it was given Best New Music (BNM):
50. Wavves – King of the Beach – 8.4 – BNM
49. Wild Nothing – Gemini – 8.2 – BNM
48. Forest Swords – Dagger Paths – 7.9
47. Women – Public Strain – 8.0
46. Matthew Dear – Black City – 8.4 – BNM
45. Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here – 8.5 – BNM
44. Kylesa – Spiral Shadow – 8.4
43. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker – 8.5 – BNM
42. Drake – Thank Me Later – 8.4
41. Delorean – Subiza – 8.4 – BNM
40. Abe Vigoda – Crush – 7.8
39. Best Coast – Crazy For You – 8.4 – BNM
38. Rick Ross – Teflon Don – 8.0
37. Zola Jesus – Stridulum EP – 8.1
36. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? – 8.3
35. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach – 8.5 – BNM
34. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles – 8.5 – BNM
33. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt – 8.5 – BNM
32. Tyler, the Creator – Bastard – Not reviewed
31. Woods – At Echo Lake – 8.0
30. The-Dream – Love King – 8.6 – BNM
29. The Fresh & Onlys – Play It Strange – 8.0
28. The National – High Violet – 8.7 – BNM
27. Four Tet – There Is Love in You – 8.6 – BNM
26. Twin Shadow – Forget – 8.4
25. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz – 8.4 – BNM
24. Hot Chip – One Life Stand – 8.4 – BNM
23. Das Racist – Sit Down, Man – 8.7 – BNM
22. Girls – Broken Dreams Club EP – 8.7 – BNM
21. The Walkmen – Lisbon – 8.6 – BNM
20. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal – 8.2
19. How to Dress Well – Love Remains – 8.7 – BNM
18. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh – 8.0
17. Caribou – Swim – 8.4 – BNM
16. Sleigh Bells – Treats – 8.7 – BNM
15. Robyn – Body Talk – 8.7 – BNM
14. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma – 8.8 – BNM
13. No Age – Everything In Between – 8.8 – BNM
12. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid – 8.5 – BNM
11. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs – 8.6 – BNM
10. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor – 8.7 – BNM
09. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today – 9.0 – BNM
08. James Blake – The Bells Sketch EP / CMYK EP / Klavierwerke EP – 8.3 – BNM
07. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me – 9.2 – BNM
06. Vampire Weekend – Contra – 8.6 – BNM
05. Beach House – Teen Dream – 9.0 – BNM
04. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty – 9.2 – BNM
03. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest – 9.2 – BNM
02. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening – 9.2 – BNM
01. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – 10.0 – BNM
Then we’ve got albums that were given Best New Music in 2010 but did not place in the top 50. Interestingly, 15 of these 17 are from the first half of the year:
OFF! - First Four EPs
Curren$y - Pilot Talk
ceo - White Magic
Julian Lynch - Mare
Male Bonding - Nothing Hurts
Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme
The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Fang Island - Fang Island
Liars - Sisterworld
Gonjasufi - A Sufi and a Killer
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Gil Scott-Heron - I’m New Here
Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
Owen Pallett - Heartland
And finally, we’ve pulled out the albums in the top 50 that did not get Best New Music:
Forest Swords - Dagger Paths
Women - Public Strain
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
Drake - Thank Me Later
Abe Vigoda - Crush
Rick Ross - Teflon Don
Zola Jesus - Stridulum EP
Tyler, the Creator - Bastard
Woods - At Echo Lake
The Fresh & Onlys - Play It Strange
Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
So it seems that there was a pretty strong level of consistency between Pitchfork’s various metrics this year, but I wonder, how does that compare to their lists from previous years?