With six albums already under their belt and with no sign of stopping any time soon, Radiohead have created some truly great music over their fifteen-year career. My favorite ten stand-out tracks by Radiohead are listed below, in order to help others find out why they’re so popular and heavily acclaimed.
10. “Optimistic” off of Kid A
One of the most accessible songs off of Radiohead’s last three albums is probably “Optimistic.” With some tribal-sounding drumming and some really cool guitar work, the song is extremely catchy. The effects play a large part of this song and it has one of my favorite outros in any of their songs.
9. “Pyramid Song” off of Amnesiac
“Pyramid Song” is perhaps one of the most popular songs off of any Radiohead’s more experimental and electronic albums. With some piano chords with an odd time signature and Thom Yorke’s haunting voice, this track was what Thom York once said was “the best thing we’ve committed to tape, ever.” The song builds up nicely and adds some great strings and wonderful drumming. Although it wasn’t a single in the United States, it’s considered a fan favorite and is often played live at Radiohead’s concerts.
8. “Airbag” off of OK Computer
With some wonderful and catchy distorted guitar and unique drumming, the opener for OK Computer definitely delivers. The melody is very catchy and there are a lot of cool transitions which focus around the drumming.
7. “The National Anthem” off of Kid A
It is believed that the main bass riff of the song, which plays throughout the entire song, was written by Thom Yorke at the age of 16. Despite its simplicity, the bass is extremely catchy and put in the forefront of the song. Despite the song having vocals, it almost feels like an instrumental track as the drums and jazzy horns are key instruments in the song.
6. “The Bends” off of The Bends
Although the song wasn’t a single off of the popular record, it is one of my favorites just for its catchy melody, lyrics, and guitar riffs. The song is fairly standard for 1990s alternative rock, but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored because it still is really good. This is perhaps one of Radiohead’s most rocking songs.
5. “Creep” off of Pablo Honey
This song, which is probably the first Radiohead song for almost every one of their fans, was what made Radiohead known to the public. With a catchy melody and some wonderful grungy guitar work, the song was popular for its “loser” lyrics which fit just right into the early 1990s.
4. “Fake Plastic Trees” off of The Bends
Another one of Radiohead’s singles off of the Bends, “Fake Plastic Trees” deals with the consumerism found in modern society. With some wonderful strings and odd keyboard effects, this song is perhaps one of the most emotional songs recorded by Radiohead.
3. “My Iron Lung” off of The Bends
This song was actually written by Radiohead and dealt with their most popular hit, “Creep.” It was meant to be a kind of paradox, as “Creep” was what kept them popular as a band, yet it constrained them and would never escape them. The song has a very explosive chorus where the distortion blasts on is kind of a parody they did of their own “Creep.”
2. “Paranoid Android” off of OK Computer
According to Thom Yorke, this song was originally meant to be three separate songs which they later, similar to The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” decided to just combine into one. The song has been on many different lists for “best songs” and has actually been voted as the best Radiohead song by fans online according to a popular Radiohead fan site.
1. “Karma Police” off of OK Computer
Besides “Creep,” “Karma Police” is likely the most popular Radiohead song worldwide. The song was played on alternative rock stations when it was released and has its own music video as well. With some wonderful piano rock influenced by The Beatles and a great chorus, this song truly deserves all the attention that it gets.
Radiohead’s career so far has been very well received due to their ability to change styles and, as seen from the list above, still be able to retain their high quality of music. I’m really looking forward to their next album, which will likely come out sometime in 2007.