(Last week, the news that Daniel Radcliffe listened to a lot of Radiohead to get into character for the lastest installment of Harry Potter triggered this list of top 10 Radiohead songs for various ultra fans. Riley Breckenridge, 3hree Things columnist and Thrice drummer, talks about his best songs, in a list that goes up to eleven; not bad for a guy who has not just one, but two Radiohead tattoos.--Ed.)
I don't think there's another band on the planet that has influenced me more as a musician and songwriter than Radiohead, so whittling this list down to just 10 songs was a daunting task. (So daunting, in fact, that I lost my ability to count and gave them 11 songs.) And if you were to ask me to submit this list again in a month, I'd guess that almost half of it would be different.
I can't think of another band that has been as inspiring, yet defeating as Radiohead has been. The best way I can think of explaining that would be via a clumsy basketball analogy. (Sorry.) You can go out and play a pick up game, and play well, and feel good about yourself, but once you watch footage of Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan, you realize, that while you're technically playing the same game, the game that they're playing is on a completely different, almost unfathomable level. That's how I feel about Radiohead. We're playing the same game, but they're functioning on a level that is well beyond my wildest dreams.
1. "How To Disappear Completely"
This song has been a fitting soundtrack to some of the highest and lowest times in my life. I remember falling asleep to it every night for almost two years, because of how much it calmed me and put me at peace whether it'd been a great day or a difficult one. The lyrics "I'm not here. This isn't happening." resonated with me so intensely (both in times of something-seeming-so-incredibly-wonderful-that-it's-surreal and times of something-seeming-so-insurmountable-and-depressing-that-it's-soul-crushing) that I got them tattooed on the inside of my arm. And there's something about the arrangement, movement, and mood of this song that moves me like nothing else can.
2. "Everything In Its Right Place"
I'm of the opinion that the sound of the first five notes in this song is one of the most comforting sounds ever created.
Five notes. Played in a single second. And I'm instantly in a better place.
3. "All I Need"
I heard this for the first time at a show that I went to (alone) in 2007 at Bayside in San Diego (beforeIn Rainbows
was released.) Standing at the back of the crowd, with the sun disappearing into the Pacific Ocean behind the stage, the coda of this song brought me to tears. It was such a cathartic end to a brooding groove, I couldn't hold in my emotions. Absolutely gorgeous.
4. "Paranoid Android"
There's something beautifully schizophrenic about this song. It's all over the place, really; hypnotic, groovy, chaotic, cathartic, a deceptively heavy. Somehow, Radiohead managed to tastefully squeeze everything that has made them (arguably) on the best rock bands of all-time into roughly six-and-a-half minutes of music.
5. "In Limbo"
The movement of the guitar arpeggio in this track is some of my favorite guitar work in Radiohead's entire catalogue. And subconsciously it's been highly influential in some of the guitar parts I've written for Thrice. It dances between dark and light, and its triplet feel can be pretty mesmerizing. When asked about my favorite songs on Kid A I often forget how about how much I love this one, but I'm not making that mistake this time. Dare I say, this is an underrated Radiohead song.
This is another song I heard for the first time at that show in San Diego in '07. Even with a brutal sunburn that I'd gotten after standing in the summer sun for several hours, it gave me the chills. And it convinced me in that moment that In Rainbows would be my second favorite Radiohead record, behind Kid A. It is.
7. "Exit Music (For A Film)"
This song is so haunting, but beautiful despite its grim lyrical content. Sonically, the use of a mellotron has always been a hit-or-miss thing for me (most often landing in the "miss" category), but in this song it's chill-inducing. It adds an uplifting quality to a song that plods along melancholically, making it unforgettable as far as I'm concerned.
8. "Knives Out"
While musically this probably isn't one of the Top 10 Radiohead songs in any super-fan's playlist, Thom Yorke's sweeping melody in this song vaults it into my list. It just crushes me. Well, that, and that it's (probably) one of the greatest break-up songs ever written.
9. "Pyramid Song"
I never studied music theory, and despite Thrice's history of dabbling in odd time signatures, it's our exploration of those has always been a much more feel-based thing than anything mathematical. That said, the piano part Thom Yorke plays in this song (and when and how the drums come in) has always tied my brain in knots. And for that reason, when the drums do come in (and feel so good in the process) it's always seemed magical to me. So magical, that it's become my second favorite song on a record that probably isn't in my "Top 3 or 4 Radiohead Records" list.
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10. "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
There's something about this track that stimulates some of my punk rock receptors, which are old, but still functioning. And that I can get that stimulation under the guise of Radiohead's arrangements and dynamics makes it a favorite. The turn the guitar arpeggios take at 2:54 gives me chills in a way that few bands (if any) can.
I feel like I ran out of adjectives a few songs ago. This song just kicks ass. I could listen to the drums and percussion alone on a loop and love it. The rest of the song is just gravy.