radiohead

Radiohead – Spectre

Sam Smith wrote the actual theme to ;Spectre, the 24th James Bond film (and possibly the last to feature actor Daniel Craig in the lead role). Radiohead only wrote a prospective one—long the stuff of myths, or literal bets. Both are sinister, irresolute ballads for piano and orchestra, but Smith’s tune is overtly triumphant, with typical mini-climaxes that place it firmly in the tradition of healthily overwrought Bond anthems, like “Skyfall”. Smith used ominous spy-thriller horns, weaved through instrumental vamps, and pithy, anti-heroic lyrics: “I’m prepared for this,” he sings, “I never shoot to miss/But I feel like a storm is coming.”
Radiohead’s discarded anthem has some of this soupiness. But the marks it hits are unexpected—it pulls back hastily from anthemic orchestral breaks—so in some sense, it’s exactly what one would expect from a slow-burning Radiohead theme for a modern, self-serious Bond flick. There’s a jerky, Yorke-ian piano chord pattern. The vamp is an open forum for the decaying orchestral swoops that are the stamp of a Jonny Greenwood soundtrack. Phil Selway’s jazzy drum figures allow “Spectre” to come into its own—a welcome “Pyramid Song” sequel. It possesses all the melodrama of a good Bond song but only a hint of the kitsch.
If it wasn’t for Yorke’s icate, forlorn vocal—just a few angelic falsetto notes, gradually bent out of shape, embellishing a typically vague, pointillistic lyric—the song might risk sounding like a rote retread of previous work. Instead, “Spectre” turns out to be one of the finest Radiohead songs in some years, much than a one-off curiosity. At this point, both Yorke and Greenwood have become interested in writing program music; if narrative limitations can yield something like “Spectre,” a concept album might be Radiohead’s best possible next act.

the range

The Range – Florida

The electronic musician James Hinton, who peforms music as the Range, has worn the same hat and buttoned-up shirt combo each time I’ve seen him perform. There’s something comfortably consistent about it, and that can be said of his music, too. For instance, his new album, Potential, feels very much like a refined continuation of 2013’s Nonfiction. In some ways, it comes off like its second part, than an entirely new entity.
This is praise. Nonfiction found a way to make moving, emotionally resonant electronic music from seemingly not much than YouTube samples and a great sense of dynamics and melody. Like Nonfiction, Potential features YouTube clips of anonymous people who bolster and humanize Hinton’s compositions. Hinton explains: “I found each person by using a small set of search terms on YouTube… I endeavored to tie the songs of Potential together by telling my own story alongside the stories of the people I sampled.”
The words are sometimes moving, sometimes textural, and they can often bloom as amazing hos—even if they didn’t sound polished in their original form. On “Florida,” for example, a shaky a cappella cover of Ariana Grande’s “You’ll Never Know” becomes a star turn in Hinton’s hands. He threads the woman’s voice through a mix of spritely electronics that bring to mind Nobukazu Takemura, twinkling steel drums, and an infectious dynamic upswing to create a dance-floor anthem. Listening to her in this new context, you begin to see what she heard inside her head when she decided to upload her clip to the internet. And it’s beautiful.