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Thom Yorke – Anima

August 25, 2019

I have been a Radiohead fan since The Bends was released in 1995. I have enjoyed Thom Yorke’s work outside of Radiohead, but somehow this album, Anima, resonates with me more than the rest of his solo and side gigs. I don’t know if I am in a more receptive and evolved state, or if Yorke made Anima more accessible. My gut is a little of both. Perhaps, seeing Yorke live this past winter put me in a more receptive state of mind.

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First, let me compliment Yorke and his label (XL Recordings) for the excellent rendering of the physical release. There are several versions and I picked up the vinyl on orange wax. It is a high-quality quiet pressing and the artwork is striking.

Yorke developed Anima with longtime Radiohead producer and collaborator Nigel Godrich via studio work and live shows. It was accompanied by a 15-minute short film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson released on Netflix.  The film complements the album and the album complements the film.

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Anima lands squarely in the electronic soundscapes that solo-Yorke has worked in since his debut solo album The Eraser in 2006. It alternates between infectious dance numbers and dirges (sometimes in the same song). Ultimately, this is dream music. Not only dreamy sounding, but I assume we are getting a peek at Yorke’s unconscious mind on this album.

The music is both spare and lush at the same time. Yorke and Godrich have done a fantastic job on the production. As electronic as it is, it feels live and organic. It does not sound overly fussed over (but I assume it was – nothing that sounds this good is spontaneous). There is a lot of open space in the production that lets the music breath, yet it’s also deeply layered. Yorke’s vocals are front and center and the beats support the song – augmenting without distracting (despite their perfection). It is an artistic achievement to pull all of this off without it sounding like a mess.

Lyrically, Yorke is his usual “Debbie Downer,” but the music is so gorgeously performed that it’s more joyful than depressing. It is pure magic that Yorke and Godrich make their dystopian art beautiful. If you are a fan of the more electronic side of Radiohead, you will love this album.

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