The wonders of 2003: an album is due out in June and what do you find on the Interweb? That very same album. Much like the recent leaks of the Blur and White Stripes records, the past two days have shown the availability of Hail To The Thief, the highly-anticipated new album from Radiohead. So, in honor of that fact, hereís a brief track-by-track rundown of Hail To The Thief.
(01) "2+2=5": The album opener finds the boys from Oxford in a similar headspace to Kid A or Amnesiac, all sparse guitars and plaintive vocals. Until about half way through, when guitars crash in and the song becomes the most straightforward thing theyíve done since OK Computer. An auspicious beginningÖ
(02) "Sit Down, Stand Up": More of the same, minimalist arrangements and Thom Yorkeís emotive wailing, accompanied by some xylophone-type instrument. Again, as in "2+2=5," the song drastically changes at the midpoint. However, this time itís hectic, scattered IDM/Warp Records style rhythms that find their way into the tune. Interesting.
(03) "Sail To The Moon": Further sparse arrangements, with a prominent piano line and a slight, analog drum backing. Cold and dark, like a trip to the moon.
(04) "Backdrifts": The prettiest tune of the bunch so far, this number mixes more electronic rhythms and instrumentation with Thomís spine-tingling vocal.
(05) "Go To Sleep": A strummed guitar intro sets the tone for the uptempo aspects to come. A rougher vocal texture than the other tracks, and multiple noisy guitar lines running simultaneously, including the initial strum pattern. Second fastest track so far.
(06) "Where I End And You Begin": Eerie synths lay over the top of a groovy bassline and shuffly Stone Roses-esque drum pattern. Thomís voice is back in soul-shaking mode. "Iím up in the clouds and I canít come down," he coos. Indeed.
(07) "We Suck Young Blood": Scared that the quintet has gone goth, but not to worry. Although this song is dark, there is no black eyeliner in sight. "We Suck Young Blood" kicks off with a plaintive piano line and is paired with slow-tempoed hand claps and more wailing as only Mr. Yorke can.
(08) "The Gloaming": Cyber noises lead into more electronica until a backwards synth drum line makes an appearance. Very Warp records-like and on par with the more electronic side the band showed on their past two studio albums.
(09) "There There": A down-tempo jazzy intro with what sounds like bongos. An REM-like guitar line is evident and the vocals are sung more than wailed. Another pretty one that builds in tempo and vigor, but never quite makes it out of ballad speed.
(10) "I Will": Country-western-esque in guitar tone, more minimalism in music and what seem to be double-tracked lead vocals, one in falsetto. Very Radiohead.
(11) "A Punch-Up At A Wedding": Synthetic drums, piano and bass comprise the bulk of this amusingly titled number. The further you listen, the more you continue to be reminded of the strength and quality of the vocals.
(12) "Myxomatosis": OK, any song that is based on a word describing a mosquito-borne illness that mainly attacks rabbits is CREEPY. A fuzzy bass intro leads into scattered rhythms and a more upfront vocal feel. Itís still creepy, though.
(13) "Scatterbrain": Yet another ballad, this one comprised of a repeated guitar line and yet more beautiful vocals. Reminiscent of U.N.K.L.E.ís "Rabbit In Your Headlights" with no beats..
(14) "A Wolf At The Door": A chanted vocal differentiates the album closer from the rest. Again sparse, pretty guitars lay under the almost spoken words. The song builds to crescendos, percussion swarming in and out. Very dynamic.
And so thatís it. Who knows if these are the finished versions, but itís definitely Radiohead and definitely filled with quality. Now we just have to wait until June to find out for sure.