8. The King Of Limbs (2011)
It's a testament to the depth of Radiohead's catalog that some folks consider The King Of Limbs among Radiohead's best work. If Radiohead's music exists on a spectrum with "normal rock and roll" at one end and "confrontational art noise" at the other, this album sits comfortably at the weirdo end of the range.
Indeed, The King Of Limbs is the most abstract album Radiohead has ever released. By the time they began writing and recording it in 2010, the band's members had tired of both rock jamming and the electronic programming that dominated their mid-period work. Instead, they and longtime producer Nigel Godrich opted for a middle path, using vinyl emulators to loop and refract live tracks.
This technique produced some textural marvels, especially for Radiohead's underrated rhythm section. The King Of Limbs, with its short runtime, provides more headphone candy per minute than any other Radiohead disc. You can get lost in the cluttered motorik rhythms of "Bloom" and the nervous shuffle of "Little By Little." "Feral" pushes this approach to its limits, stacking an impossible number of percussion loops atop a somnambulant Thom Yorke vocal.
But Radiohead's agonized soul is noticeably absent from The King Of Limbs. Its abstraction leaves it exceedingly chilly and impersonal. The album also noticeably drops off in its second half. "Lotus Flower," its "sexy" single, has all the warmth of a Svedka advertisement. The King Of Limbs offers plenty of intellectual charms but few spiritual ones: no ghost, all machine.