33 Musicians Discuss Their Favorite Radiohead Songs

33 Musicians Discuss Their Favorite Radiohead Songs

From star-studded guest lists to an audible influence on several generations of bands, Radiohead’s fan base has always included quite a few of their fellow rock stars. We polled dozens of notable musicians about their favorite Radiohead songs, and this is how they responded.

Ed Droste (Grizzly Bear)

“Let Down” (From 1997’s OK Computer)

Picking a favorite Radiohead song is really really tough. I’ve been a fan since the first album, bought almost all their imported singles with B-sides and really have different favorite tracks for different reasons. To be truly honest I wasn’t a DIE-hard fan until OK Computer, and it was the song “Let Down” on this album, that surprisingly was on the radio growing up in Boston a lot. (The ’90s were so much better for alt radio.) I found the song immensely powerful, and also it was my favorite to sing along to and harmonize with. I generally have always been more a fan of Radiohead’s ballads, but really am hard pressed to name any tracks that I actually dislike. “Let Down” is a deeply depressing song, and sadly one that I have always related to for a myriad reasons. As someone that suffers from clinical depression, this song — or at least my interpretation of it — really resonates with me: The futile nature of the bug on the ground and mostly that feeling one gets of being disgusted with oneself when you allow yourself to indulge in sentimentality (a trap I easily fall into). Yet despite its bleak lyrics and my not so sunny disposition when relating to them, there was always a comfort to this song for me. The tone and melody are soaring and lift you up, so to speak. The familiarity of the sentiment was actually also very comforting, especially at critical periods in my life where I needed to feel not alone. It’s impossible for me to say what the band or Thom was thinking when he wrote the lyrics or what exactly he meant, but I will say it’s probably my favorite for indulgent sentimental reasons… haha. I still find that it punctures me in a way other songs don’t always (although I will say “All I Need” in more recent years has been somewhat equally as powerful) and reminds me of where I am and how much further I have to go. For me this song is the definition of bittersweet.

J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.)

“Black Star” (From 1995’s The Bends)

I bought the CD on a trip in California and was very impressed. It was probably a year after it came out. I listened to this song over and over, it really spoke to me. This is by far my favorite Radiohead album, not self conscious they just seem to be goin’ for it. Great songs and guitar sounds, awesome singing. It’s easy to love.

Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs)

“Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” (From 2001’s Amnesiac)

It’s been hard for a decade or two to say, “I’ve never heard anything like this before,” but I still think I haven’t heard anything like this. It rattles in my head sometimes when I think of Radiohead. It’s mathematical and mystical. I still can’t put together what made it: several beautifully mangled machines, hi-fi digital equipment dripped through distorting layers of metal/time. It’s an orbit through several layers of space waste and it gives me hope for recorded music, still. Perhaps for the band it was a scrap almost left on the cutting table, but it opened up worlds for my sound-searching head.


“Paranoid Android” (From 1997’s OK Computer)

I remember being super young when this video first came out on MTV back when MTV was only playing videos. It was around the same time I remember seeing “Come To Daddy” by Aphex Twin as well, so there is major nostalgia attached to this song. I wonder what that animator is doing right now?

Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie)

“All I Need” (From 2007’s In Rainbows)

With every Radiohead record that comes out I’m kind of right there, curious about it. Whenever I’m discussing somebody who has a seminal work, whether it’s a musician or a filmmaker, I often find that you need throw that one out. Like, if you’re talking about the Beatles, you need to just throw out Sgt. Pepper’s. If you’re talking about Radiohead, throw out OK Computer. Those works are on a certain plane. In statistics, you always want to throw out the outliers. And you look at the ones in the middle. I kind of tend to take the same approach. I think OK Computer is my favorite Radiohead record, but “All I Need”…if I’ve had any kind of issues with Radiohead post-Kid A, I feel like the traditional songwriting has been stripped almost out of what they do. Some people love that. For me, I feel like some of the songwriting on the first few records is phenomenal. “All I Need” is kind of a throwback to a very open, earnest style of songwriting that Thom Yorke was doing earlier that I really related to. I also just like how, structurally, the song is just verse chorus verse chorus, but it opens up for a second and then just closes up, because it’s like, “Oh, yeah, that’s all you need.” You don’t need any more than that. It doesn’t need to be a big, huge, epic, kind of Radiohead song. I don’t know if it was intentional or just kind of how the song wound up, but I always thought it was interesting how the song does close up on itself pretty quickly.

Kip Berman (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart)

“Fake Plastic Trees” (From 1995’s The Bends)

The Bends is my favorite Radiohead album, though I won’t insist it’s the best Radiohead album. Some people do say that, but I think those people want to make a point about electric guitars and real-ness. In 2015, even making a point against that point seems beside the point. No, the best Radiohead album is the one that came out when you were 14, the one that you put on repeat while staring into a void of computer solitaire; the one you made a tape of so you could listen to it on the bus, and the one you learned every song of on your stepdad’s acoustic guitar. Remember your AOL screen name? Was it some bizarre, purposeful misspelling of a Radiohead song title because 126 other people had the same idea first? Mine was. PLASTYCK. Wanna cyber? A song like “Fake Plastic Trees” makes such perfect sense when you’re 14 because all teenagers are narcissists. I was. You were. It’s okay. It’s not permanent, just situational. And while I’m not sure if all Radiohead songs are about the existential suffering of a frustrated soul surrounded by artificiality, consumerism and decay, this one sure is. “Her green plastic watering can for her fake Chinese rubber plant in the fake plastic earth.” Teenagers are consumed with the idea that they experience something vivid, actual and unrelatable — and, of course, everyone else doesn’t. They’ve yet to compare notes with their friends at 23 to realize EVERYONE was the socially awkward girl/boy that read a lot, was uncomfortable in their own skin, and didn’t feel like they belonged. If you have that conversation after the age of 23, you’re annoying (sorry, re: Pains Belong press cycle). But if you never do, you’re a sociopath. Oh “my fake plastic love.” I don’t feel bad for adoring this song, even now. It’s a masterful pop ballad, full of understated longing and a weariness born out of that longing. It makes sense when Frank Ocean covers it, in a way that a rendition of Bush’s “Glycerine” wouldn’t. Nor do I think The Bends is a juvenile album. Perhaps everyone’s love of Radiohead is born out of adolescence, but they seem the rare band that you hold onto — not for reasons of nostalgia, i.e. your favorite emo band — but with continued appreciation and relevance. As you get older you (hopefully) lose the sense that you’re the sole inhabitant of the real. You also learn that “gravity always wins.”

Lydia Ainsworth

“Exit Music (For A Film)” (From 1997’s OK Computer)

I first listened to Radiohead the summer I was 15 years old. My cousin Tommy and I were living in a cabin in north Ontario. One evening before bed, bleeding through the cracks of the pine walls, I felt the vibrations of a voice that was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I remember tracing Thom Yorke’s wounded vocals throughout the cabin until I arrived at my cousin’s door. As I knocked and peered through “Exit Music (For A Film)” had completely inhabited his room with a wash of fiery red and orange. I remember the walls melting and the ceiling exploding. OK Computer instantly became one of my most treasured albums. My experience of first listening to “Exit Music (For A Film)” still inspires me to attempt (an always futile attempt) to conjure that same feeling when writing my own music.

Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips)

“There, There” (From 2003’s Hail To The Thief)

I think I’m like a lot of people, there’s so much of their stuff that’s cool, that’s cool. It doesn’t speak to me all the way. I think most of the stuff they’ve done is pretty stellar. I think the song I got stuck with the most is that song “There There.” I didn’t have anything that pushed me to that song. Of the 50 Radiohead songs that you would listen to, that one would go by and I’d say, “Fuck, that’s cool.” I was just drawn to it. I would talk to other people and they’d say, “Yeah, me too.” It just has an urgency. Something. Radiohead is so good at that thing, that switching up of the rhythms. That song, I would still say, is uncanny when I listen to it. It would be hard to recreate that. I’ve seen them play it now a couple of times. It wasn’t that powerful. It was like, “OK, I like that song,” and it moves on. But I could see there’s something there in that song. I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about in it. That record, I think, you know, coming out of what seemed to be their “Let’s get rid of the guitars” phase — and I like all that too — but there’s something when they came back to the punk guitar stuff. They found another level of that. I didn’t like them back when they first got big. I saw them just before OK Computer. They struck me the way a lot of British bands will when they do a tour of America. They’re very professional, they do their thing, the lights are all on cue, but it seems very much like “We’re playing 100 shows and that was number 80.” Not that it wasn’t good, there’s no…we’ve played with a lot of British bands that have that thing about them. I think it’s part of the British musician. Put your head down, do this. I thought it was boring. I stood on my feet at the end of it and said, “You’ve gotta play ‘Creep!’ You can’t just not play ‘Creep’ just because everyone likes the song.” That’s just me being smarmy. Then I didn’t see them for a couple of years, and then we were lucky enough to play the Glastonbury festival just before they did, probably on their greatest night. That was the Hail To The Thief record. They were completely different. They were funny and they had some fuck-ups and they were just not so furious and it wasn’t just play it by the numbers. It was literally one of the greatest shows we’ve seen. They’re still weird. They’re not the approachable guys, not like freaks hanging out. But, hey, that’s what you’d expect from them.

Jana Hunter (Lower Dens)

“Like Spinning Plates” (From 2001’s Amnesiac)

This song falls in an inviolable category for me. It carries that feeling strung on tensed wire between horror and frustration that 1) is a feature of modern life and 2) magnifies the beauty of individual people and their struggles. I imagine the character (I often imagine singers giving voice to someone other than themselves) railing against the futility of struggle, cursing empty promises of pretend authorities. I always heard the title lyric as “This just feels like spinning in place.”

I’ve read how it’s the reversed recording (at least in part) of a different song, one that made it onto a later album. A friend said Juan Tizol wrote “Caravan” by playing sheet music turned upside-down. It’s strange how reversing something can have the effect of turning it into a ghost. Both “Caravan” and this song feel like symbiotic parasites. I don’t have to pull out a recording to hear them. A song reversed, or turned upside-down, shows us a side of ourselves we didn’t expect to see, much less document. It’s to the songwriters’ credit, in the case of either song, that they went looking for what they couldn’t see, and recognized it for what it was.

Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes)

“Codex” (From 2011’s The King of Limbs)

I like “Codex” a lot. I like the little vocal blip that gets pushed off the diving board at the beginning. I like the piano creeping around, like someone stepping on rocks barefoot. I like the kick drum, it’s small and it sounds like someone tapping on a microphone. If it isn’t that, then they could have done that instead. I like the minor-third-to-second “blue note” vocal/horn part. I like that Thom Yorke sings “Jump off the end” as the chords ascend. That part has a really nice, nostalgic melody. It’s just a hair’s breadth from treacly. Right around the corner from it. I can imagine Helen Mirren singing that little melody. I like that the lyrics are about swimming at night. People think back fondly on night swimming experiences. A better time. I bet they wrote the music first, and then someone in the band (or their producer) said, “You know, this music sort of evokes the very mild but bonding danger of swimming at night with friends,” and then they wrote the lyrics. But if you put this song on on a Bluetooth speaker while you were swimming at night, I think that would feel too much like trying to construct a moment. A little on the nose. Maybe the next day driving back to the city at sunset you could put it on, though. Swimming at night; nice and intentional.

Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill/Le Tigre/The Julie Ruin)

“Creep” (From 1993’s Pablo Honey)

I am the oddball who always thought “Creep” was such a perfectly constructed pop song, complete with weird minor chords to change things up and that amazing dropout… though I’m sure the band is probably horrified by that song having to play it so many times and then taking a brand new direction. I’m also a fan of Thom Yorke’s singing, but I don’t sit around listening to Radiohead really because they went so esoteric and spacey which isn’t my jam.

Patrick Carney (The Black Keys)

“Idioteque” (From 2000’s Kid A)

After The Bends came out I didn’t really listen to much Radiohead for the next couple years. It probably was just because I was broke or maybe it was because I spent most of ’97-2000 listening to Captain Beefheart. It wasn’t until around 2005 that I went back and got caught up with their music, and then in 2006 we were asked by the band to open up a handful of shows in the U.S. The last two shows were at the theater in Madison Square Garden, and these were the only shows I was able to watch. I remember hearing “Idioteque” at one of these shows and being absolutely blown away. This isn’t to say that “Idioteque” is my favorite song by the band because it this point it is nearly impossible for me to isolate a single song. It just was the first time I realized how important it is to see a band live. Especially a band like Radiohead.

Jane Penny (TOPS)

“All I Need” (From 2007’s In Rainbows)

This was quite the blast from the past for me. I listened to Radiohead on a portable CD player on the bus home from high school, LOL. At first I wanted to choose “Street Spirit” cause as a teenager the video for that song was really inspiring. But then I went through some old Radiohead songs and I remembered this song “All I Need” which I really love, because the melodies are so beautiful, the words are simple in a way that I find really effective, it gets under your skin. The super powerful buildup at the end isn’t the type of thing that usually gets me going, but it’s a beautiful song and that’s all I need to get down with music.

S. Carey

“Kid A” (From 2000’s Kid A)

Choosing a favorite Radiohead song is like picking a favorite taqueria in California — close to impossible. One song that I think is so beautifully and perfectly crafted is “Kid A.” The drums and “bouncing basketballs” percussion (as I always think of it) are so cool and flowing. Its all about the breakdown though, and when the main beat and bass finally drop back in — perfection.

Corin Roddick (Purity Ring)

“Pyramid Song” (From 2001’s Amnesiac)

I don’t really care for The King Of Limbs, but Radiohead were one of my favorite bands in high school. I love so many Radiohead songs. The one that comes to mind right now but might not be my favorite is “Pyramid Song.” I think that’s one of the most mystical pieces of music ever written. It sounds so natural and doesn’t seem forced in any way, but at the same time it’s one of the most complex songs I’ve ever heard in that I still can’t really figure it out when I try to. The patterns overlap in strange ways that are kind of unlike anything else that I’ve heard. But at the same time, it’s also just such a beautiful song. At a time, Amnesiac was my favorite Radiohead album. I think Amnesiac is less solid as a whole record than, say, OK Computer or In Rainbows, but it has some more highlights. The high points of Amnesiac are higher than any of the other albums. But then it has some songs like “Hunting Bears” or “Pulk/Pull.” They’re fine, but I don’t really want to listen to those tracks over and over again.

Megan James (Purity Ring)

“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” (From 2007’s In Rainbows)

This one’s amazing. It’s really relaxing, but you can dance to it, I think. Every part of it is so beautiful. I came late to Radiohead. I had a moment with OK Computer, but In Rainbows…I spent more time with it. It was more touching.

Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz)

“We Suck Young Blood (Your Time Is Up)” (From 2003’s Hail To The Thief)

I started listening to Radiohead as a tween, after the silkscreening studio at my summer camp printed a Tiger Beat-style parody called “Which Radiohead Album Are You?” Despite getting assigned Pablo Honey, I became a fairly devoted Radiohead fan, enough so that I was pissed I couldn’t pick up Hail To The Thief on the day it was released (because I was performing in concert with a children’s choir — being a teenager was crazy wild). Lucky for me, my dad had scooped a CD copy earlier in the day, so we cruised aimlessly after the concert, playing the whole thing twice in his car. We hadn’t really done this kind of communal listening since I was a kid, and we haven’t really since (my dad lived in Manhattan — not the most ideal traffic patterns for meandering drives). I remember how spooked we both got at the eerie handclaps on “We Suck Young Blood.” In college a few years later, some kids across the hall from me taped pubic hair to my door for overplaying that same song.

Nikolai Fraiture (The Strokes/Nickel Eye)

Radiohead are one of the last bands I can remember that have been able to create a journey. From Pablo Honey to The King Of Limbs, there are only a few musical tropes and faint traces that these are the same individuals still making music together after 18 years. Because of this, it’s an impossible task to pick one favorite album, let alone one song. Hail To The Thief and OK Computer, however, are interesting examples that show an amalgamation of their many different styles over the years. From recording live to electronic elements to subtly poignant socio-political commentary, from commercial releases to unmarketable gems, they have a tempered blend of essential Radiohead traits. The Strokes were recording with Nigel Godrich in New York just before Hail To The Thief was to be released. During our session, I would experience the nascent issue of an album leak: Nigel on his cellphone receiving the devastating news that fans around the world were listening to a rough, unfinished version of a yearlong process. And with a band once again rolling with the punches, they adopted the pay-what-you-want method on their next album, In Rainbows. I am more inspired by their transformations than any one song in particular, though there are so many to choose from. From the opening strums of “Thinking About You” to the musical odyssey itself that is “Paranoid Android;” from the introductory soundscapes of “Everything In Its Right Place,” to the bass and drum groove in “All I Need;” with producer Nigel Godrich and visual artist Stanley Donwood, Radiohead’s career, to me, has come to be defined by a term the music industry so carelessly throws around: Recording Artists.

Mark Smith (Explosions In The Sky/Inventions)

“Idioteque” (From 2000’s Kid A)

I always revisit Kid A and try to recapture the feelings I had when I first listened to it. It’s not possible — now I just hear the combination of experimentation and songwriting and depth that is somehow beautiful and scary and human and alien and illusory and random and planned all at once. But back then, my first listen was just confusing, my second was confounding, my third was love, and my fourth was infatuation. “Idioteque” in particular — the lyrics about scaremongering and “This is really happening” — seems like it’s pleading with us. I couldn’t get enough of it, and it hasn’t lost any of that effect for me. I love watching their old live performances of it, this insane urgent trance with Thom dancing and Jonny seemingly plugging and unplugging cables into a telephone exchange (or so I thought back then). It’s still my favorite thing Radiohead have ever done, but insanely, I still think they’re growing and evolving so I won’t be surprised if that changes.

Marissa Nadler

“Fake Plastic Trees” (From 1995’s The Bends)

The Bends came out in 1995, and I was 14 and just starting to learn the guitar. I’ve always been a sucker for slow ballads (who would have thought!) and was legitimately obsessed with “Fake Plastic Trees” and the few downer songs speckled throughout the album. I think that the first time I really successfully played barre chords was because I wanted to be able to sing this song, and the F#minor was my ticket to ride.

There was a deep seated and pervasive sense of loneliness for me, a socially awkward kid on the periphery of pretty much every scene there was, during those years. But there was a sort of communion through the unifying power of a few seminal albums of the mid-90s, and those albums not only helped me feel less alone, but part of a community. The Bends, along with In Utero, and even Live Through This — these were albums that soundtracked the teenage years for me.

There’s a tinge of tragedy in the lyrics of the song that really influenced me. There’s a sense of time passing in this song, of decades going by, of fumbling with futility, of gravity winning. When you’re young and suffering through your first crushes and heartbreaks and rejections, lines like “If I could be who you wanted” have the weight of the scripture. The song, whether intentional or not, became a sort of anthem of the lonely, at least for me.

Cameron Mesirow (Glasser)

“Pyramid Song” (From 2001’s Amnesiac)

When I saw Radiohead in San Francisco on the OK Computer tour, not only was the show fantastic, but I gained a visual that would accompany their music forever after: Thom Yorke’s dancing. His feet were firmly planted as he played guitar, but his legs displayed the absorption of a ripple from some other source, a flag flying above the mouth of a volcano, an inflatable tube man advertising cars more enthusiastically and unbridled than any salesman ever could. It was honest and weird, and a complete expression of feeling rather than style. The reality of his performance was powerful for me and I have that image still when I hear him sing. I have many favorite Radiohead songs but one song that I have been listening to a lot is “Pyramid Song” from Amnesiac. There is so much bittersweetness in the chordal structure, but the lyrics are so positive and affirming, watercourse being a perfectly imperfect structure through which to view your life’s journey to oblivion.

Johan Hugo (The Very Best)

“How To Disappear Completely” (From 2000’s Kid A)

In 2001 I had just moved from Sweden to London and was living in a squat in Kentish Town. I had no money, and after about three weeks of trying to find a job, I was getting desperate and feeling really down. One day when I was going for a walk trying to figure out what to do, I saw a field and a big hedge with an opening in it. I walked through the opening, and on the other side was a huge park with big trees and grass stretching as far as I could see. I hadn’t realized there where parks like this in London, but this little piece of heaven happened to be Hampstead Heath. The autumn leaves were falling from the trees, but I could still smell the end of summer. I had never been so happy to find nature. I had just gotten the Kid A album a few days earlier, and this song was playing in my headphones as I walked through that hedge. I still listen to this song at least once a month, and it always brings me back to that moment of happiness.


“Lotus Flower” (From 2011’s The King of Limbs)

The King Of Limbs kind of flew under my radar until one morning as I was walking in the desert. It was in that muted moment just before sunrise where the sky turns to a deep blue gradient creeping up from the horizon and objects in the distance slowly begin to assume their forms. I spotted what appeared to be a bus in the distance and headed toward it. When I arrived there was this kind of lull; ambient noise drifted from large speakers while a group of people milled around. I stood at the edge and listened as the sound of waves crashing began to fade, giving way to the opening bassline of “Lotus Flower.” It meandered like a snake outward into the open desert and over a distant mountain until a breakbeat swelled up to meet it and suddenly this wave of attention collectively washed over the people there; a new day was coming and this was its portent. We all turned and watched as the still hidden sun scattered a purple cast over the landscape. It was one of the more powerfully surreal experiences I’ve had with music, and every time I hear that song I can glimpse through a small window to that moment in time. It stands for me as a poignant illustration of how context can shape the way in which we perceive art.

Scott Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit)

“Electioneering” (From 1997’s OK Computer)

“Electioneering” satisfied me on a number of counts when I heard it as a teenager. Firstly, the drop-D guitar tuning. This was (and until recently, remained) my tuning of choice, having been trained to play by the drop-D cognoscente of Rage Against The Machine, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden and, er… Reef (sorry). So I found it easy enough to play along to, which couldn’t be said for all of OK Computer with its numerous shifts in sonic palette. The song is a relentless racket and one that I relished copying note for note, learning to whack the strings like Johnny Greenwood did when I watched them on Jools Holland. Greenwood’s part is brutal, shrill, and electrifying. It matches the vocal perfectly; there’s angst in this song, but not woe-is-he. It’s a polemic, the kind that Thom Yorke is an expert in writing. Bitterly spitting at the powers that be, yet smirking all the way. I think “Electioneering” is often overlooked, probably due to the towering presence of “Paranoid Android,” “No Surprises” etc., but I find it more thrilling than anything on that album. Or any of their albums for that matter.

Alex Fischel (Spoon)

“The National Anthem” (From 2000’s Kid A)

This is way too hard, but I love “The National Anthem” off Kid A. It’s very hypnotic, yet grows and grows into this semi-psychotic, paranoid end of the world monster. And the lyrics really help get you to that point too, even though there are so few — it all meshes perfectly. The bass tone is amazing, the vocal tone is amazing (yo Thom if you ever read this I really need to know what that vocal effect is), the guitar and ondes Martenot parts are amazing and the horn parts drive me absolutely insane they’re so good. I guess as a whole, to me, it feels like someone pleading for peace and quiet, yet all the while they know in the back of their head that it won’t ever be possible, eventually letting go and getting lost in complete paranoid chaos….but they kind of secretly like it.

Matthew Cooper (Eluvium/Inventions)

“Codex” (From 2011’s The King of Limbs)

It’s impossible for me to choose one favorite song, but for now, I choose “Codex.” I came to love this song while touring. One of the things Radiohead excel at is illustrating the human feeling inundated. “Codex” creates its own little world to be inside, and has just enough sound play to keep the mind bending and intrigue alive. It makes me feel better, it makes me feel worse, it has a womb-like quality that reminds me of what I miss about being home, but protects me while away. If my choice were not “Codex”…maybe “Idioteque,” “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” “Let Down,” “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” “Planet Telex,” “Black Star,” “Packt Like Sardines…,” “Everything In Its Right Place,” “Melatonin,” “Reckoner,” and “Videotape” would scratch the surface. It goes without saying how unique this band is, but trying to consider a favorite track emphasizes how creative and contemplative and arresting they have remained for so long.

Evan Bird (Diarrhea Planet)

“There, There” (From 2003’s Hail To The Thief)

My favorite Radiohead song is probably “There There” off of Hail To The Thief. I’d been a big fan since my uncle gave me OK Computer right after it came out, and I liked Hail To The Thief, but this song in particular always stuck out. I love how beautiful the vocal melody is over-top of such a spooky groove — especially those last few minutes. I read a quote about Nigel Godrich saying something to the effect of “We played this back in the studio and I started weeping.” When I saw them play this song live, I almost wept too.

Rosie Blair (Ballet School)

“Pyramid Song” (From 2001’s Amnesiac)

I hate doing stuff like this by the way. I cannot choose a favorite song by these kinds of totemic artists. But I do have a thing about purity. I really think that star quality and genius exist, if fleetingly. You know my first ever job — this is not a lie — was working in an ice cream parlor. And at the end of the shift I’d turn the big lights off and just have the neon pink and blue ones on and I’d put The Bends on the stereo and mop the floors. That record just sounded fucking great in the ice cream parlor. Particularly “Bullet Proof.” That’s a really good end of shift playlist song. It’s my nostalgic fave. But if you asked Thom Yorke or Jonny Greenwood (my fave in the band) about it, maybe they’d choose the songs they are most proud of. We’re supposed to believe great musical careers have these over-arching narratives, but they don’t. Every time you go in the studio there’s this fear that nothing will happen, like in the background of the greatest (’90s) song ever, “Unfinished Sympathy,” where you can hear Mushroom or whoever it is saying, “Dunno where this one came from.” The Radiohead song that blows a lot of musician’s minds is “Pyramid Song.” I feel like this song snatches wigs from Charles Mingus to James Blake. It’s a very, very well written song. I think it’s 4/4 but it’s so mysterious and meandering you can never be sure. Your perception is constantly, lazily shifting, mirroring the lyrical imagery of being on a boat crossing the River Styx. It’s a song about death. And when you’re dying, you aren’t that bothered about it. There is nothing to fear, nothing bad. This is a state of mind the living cannot comprehend of course, which is what makes the song so compelling. The jarring rests in the piano chord progression, it’s all there. It’s just a totally spherical, perfect piece of writing. Sometimes Radiohead were so earnest that I would get bored of having the feels triggered every time I listened to them. I kind rebelled against that classicist, masculine vibe for a while. You have to when you are young. I think a lot of girls at that time did. Radiohead were just so revered. That can be oppressive. But I’m not a miser. I know when to defer. And “Pyramid Song” is one of those moments.

Nick Thorburn (Islands)

“4 Minute Warning” (From 2007’s In Rainbows bonus disc)

Weirdly (lamely?), I was a fan of the band around the time of The Bends, but fell off after OK Computer, which is when they got good and interesting. I still check in with them from time to time, and think off the top of my head, I’d say my favorite is “4 Minute Warning” from In Rainbows’ disc 2. It’s so sparse, elegantly minimal. I like the changes, and the murky, swampy movement from chord to chord. I think it’s relatively anomalous because the instrumentation is extremely traditional by anyone’s standards, and especially Radiohead’s. It sounds like there’s guitar, bass, piano, drums and vocals! It’s not re-writing the book on pop song modalities or whatever, but the song is pretty. And 4 minutes AND SEVEN SECONDS.

Noel Gallagher (Oasis/Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds)

“Fake Plastic Trees” (From 1995’s The Bends)

I do like The Bends. I remember buying it when it came out, actually. I remember “Fake Plastic Trees” fucking blowing me away when I heard it. I was in the middle of writing songs like “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” and it had the same kind of thing, d’you know what I mean? So it felt familiar already. It’s just a great song. I only wish they’d write more songs like it… Oh, they’ve done loads of great stuff. What’s it called, “Karma Police” is great. I’m not too familiar with the titles of them. Listen, they’re a fucking good band with a good singer. I’ve seen them, they’re fucking brilliant live. Johnny Greenwood is one of my favorite ever musicians. I think he’s a genius. The last time I saw them, at Coachella, I had a physical reaction to them where I couldn’t be in the same fucking field while it was on.

Trevor Powers (Youth Lagoon)

“All I Need” (From 2007’s In Rainbows)

I’m attached to many Radiohead songs, but I must say my favorite would be “All I Need.” Their album In Rainbows came out the same year I graduated high school. During that time, I got this terrible, monotonous job at a nursing home as a dishwasher. I became very close friends with a lot of the residents which was amazing, but the dreadful smells and repetition of cleaning mush off plates and dealing with shitty bosses drove me batty. After long days at work, I’d put on “All I Need” and melt into a sea of immature emotions as Thom Yorke sang sweet things to me. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that song reminds me of not having to wash dishes — which is always a good thing.

Chris Chu (POP ETC)

“Kid A” (From 2000’s Kid A)

My favorite Radiohead song is “Kid A.” I can listen to that song forever — it’s just so beautiful and fucked up and eerie and peaceful all at the same time. The structure and all the musical pieces are so perfectly and carefully arranged, and yet it all feels effortless and completely natural somehow. It’s what I imagine music will sound like once computers have become better at emulating human feel and nuance and playing than humans are themselves. It’s honestly hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that humans actually made this wonderful, beautiful, insane work of art. And really, there’s just no other Radiohead song that comes close to this one for me. It’s magical.

Jim James (My Morning Jacket)

“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” (From 2007’s In Rainbows)

I was playing and you came to see me. I went back in the day to some cheap dim brick-neon picnic dressing room to find and you had brought this surprise healer in long black veiled dress…this woman to heal me or something healing like that cuz I really needed it you always knew…I was with love and I ask the healer woman if its cool if she stay…at first healer was unsure but then she says okay — she stays. So the healer began to work me good and she looked deep into me from behind a veil and said “One foot in this world and one in the other. It’s ok — you can move on. You can move on to the next chapter in your life. Okay?” Which felt so good to hear. Then all of a sudden the room was paused/motionless except for me. I was standing on a white plastic picnic chair letting out this crazy wail almost orgasmic but also a lot of sadness and steam like a primal screaming banshee vent I howled out puking neon UV rays rivaling those of most modern suns… As I finished wailing the scene abruptly spliced and you and love and a few other unidentifiable people in the room were still frozen but the healer was now standing by an open doorway with her arm gesturing for me to walk towards her thru the doorway and out into the light beautiful night time starry sky full moonlight. Now she has two faces: one still looking at me, inviting me to come over, and one looking out the door into the future and they were permanently slow turning like forever blurred back and forth. I consider this to be a good sign and as I walk towards her and out the open door into the new moonlight so grateful I wish you were here to hear it I cant hear it without thinking of you. Thank you for thinking of me.


Check out more from Radiohead Week on Stereogum here.

[Photo illustration by Michaela Schuett.]

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