Up All Night With Radiohead

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By: Tommy Rodriguez

We’ve all been there: it’s late at night, your eyes have been closed for what has been an eternity, there are millions of thoughts scrambling throughout your brain, and you just can’t fall asleep. You check your social media, maybe grab a glass of water, use the bathroom, and yet you still can’t get rid of that nagging feeling that you should be asleep. Finally, after having had enough of your uncooperative body, you decide to pass the time by putting on your headphones and listening to some music by yourself. Lots of artists can make this lonely, soothing music session an enjoyable one, but if there’s ever been a band to make music that encompasses all the emotions you can feel in the late night, then that band is none other than British alternative rock outfit, Radiohead.

It may seem odd to say that Radiohead would make for a good late night listen; the band is commonly associated with experimental rock and electronic sounds that blend with strange, often depressing lyricism. Looking beyond the distinct tone of frontman Thom Yorke’s vocals, however, you can find a wide variety of good bedtime sounds in Radiohead’s discography. The band doesn’t typically go for a “hard” sound that other rock acts may go for, opting for a more relaxed or atmospheric approach in their instrumentals. Whether it be the atmospheric keys and guitar strumming on “Karma Police”, the haunting piano of “Daydreaming”, or the mellowed acoustics on “Fake Plastic Trees”, these are just a few examples of the quiet beauty that can be on display from a Radiohead song. These instrumentals, in combination with Yorke’s high pitched delivery, can provide a serene backdrop to your insomnia.

You can simply lose yourself in the melodies delivered throughout the outfit’s discography, especially if you just close your eyes and dive headfirst into their ocean of sound. The mellow production throughout most of their projects can even appeal to the folks that want their alternative a bit more experimental, especially with some of the group’s electronic albums like Kid A or The King of Limbs, as even the more alien sounds on tracks like “Morning Bell” and “Separator” can have a strange appeal that just sounds nice to your ears as you toss and turn in your room. On a purely sonic level, Radiohead can serve as the perfect soundtrack to a relaxed time, with even some of their “louder” tracks like “Creep” being relatively low-key overall. These aren’t heavy thrasher tunes made to rock you off your bed and leave you more energized than before, they’re a soft supplement to the stillness of your moonlit residence.

Maybe you aren’t looking for some pure mood music or atmospheric instrumentals; perhaps what’s keeping you up at night is a burning question that you can’t just shake off. Radiohead has you covered; their writing can be as varied as their instrumentals. Plenty of Radiohead tracks cover some of the deep burning questions that can keep us up at night. Thinking about someone you love? “House of Cards” is all about that special someone we just want to get close to in life. Worries about where humanity is going with technology? Any track from the band’s album OK Computer can put your deepest worries into a hauntingly accurate depiction of modern day electronic usage.

The complex ideas that keep us up at night, whether they’re our deepest fears or desires, can be projected onto multiple Radiohead songs. These tracks can sometimes have multiple meanings and vibes simply because of their abstract qualities, giving them surprising replay value. Anything from Kid A can get your brain working, and just let you blow off mental steam as you try and dive into the band’s cryptic but nuanced messages. When you’re laying down in the darkness, you have no distractions, no one to keep your mind off the meaning of the music, so songs as layered or topical as these can really reward you for giving them a spin. If you want something a little more light, more of a snack than a full meal for your mind, there’s nothing to fear; these guys can pull that off too. Some of the angry political statements on “Burn the Witch” can appeal to raw, blunted frustration, and a simple happiness over a good party can be celebrated on tracks like “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”. If you’re in need of a band that can cover any lingering questions or feelings you have, Radiohead may just be the band to fill that need.

Throughout the past few summers, Radiohead has been on heavy rotation in my sleep playlists. By listening to not just their excellent production, but their equally varied and relatable lyricism in the past, I’ve learned not only a lot about myself, but gained a greater appreciation for alternative music as a whole. Sometimes, I’ll find myself in the morning with my earbuds still on, Thom Yorke’s voice still ringing in my ears. And with music as good as this, I’m more than than satisfied with that. Give Radiohead a try next time you’re relaxing in bed, and you may just learn something about yourself as well!