I’ve been listening to The King of Limbs, Radiohead‘s latest record, for a little over a week now, and I really like it. While the internet has some pretty strong feelings about it, both positive and negative, I’m mostly just enjoying it – it’s not Radiohead’s best work, but it’s nowhere near disappointing (or maybe it is, if you’re expecting these guys to break down sonic barriers on every single release, but in that case, I mean, c’mon). Overall, The King of Limbs is pretty, challenging, and continues to develop several of the disparate styles that Radiohead’s been mining over recent years – all while maintaining a remarkably consistent ambiance, something like walking through the woods at dusk (not inappropriate, given the record draws its name from an ancient oak tree that stood outside the studio during their In Rainbows sessions).
Some critics have bemoaned the records lack of any truly remarkable songs, but I can’t agree – “Morning Mr. Magpie” is as catchy as anything they’ve ever done, and songs like “Little By Little” and “Lotus Flower” are just classic Radiohead, and that’s not even mentioning the solid opener and closer (sidenote: I think that might actually be one of Radiohead’s greatest triumphs of the long-player format – their opening and closing songs are almost uniformly excellent from The Bends forward, adding a bit of weight to what lies in between). My very favorite song right now is probably the languid “Codex”, a gorgeous bit of Thom Yorke melancholy set to piano and strings, perfectly invoking an inky starlit lake in the forest. In its mood it’s pretty reminiscent of another one of my favorite latter-day Radiohead tracks, the In Rainbows-era leftover, “4 Minute Warning” (see below).
Like many, my biggest criticism is the records brief runtime – at just over 37 minutes, it’s their shortest to date – and while many die-hards are pointing to evidence that it may be the first of two or maybe even three releases to come, I’m not quite convinced. The eight songs follow a strong arc and have the feel of a finished piece, even if they are over before I realize it. That said, if there is more to come I’ll be the first to eat my words.