5. George McCrae – Rock Your Baby (Song): Likely heard one night while listening to the Top of the Pops podcast on the BBC, somehow I had never heard this track before even though it is one of the biggest selling singles of all time at 11 million units. A staggering achievement for this understated slice of R&B disco that slinks along in it’s rhythmic funk. One that works as well on the dancefloor or while holding your baby on the couch.
4. Courtney Barnett – Before You Gotta Go (Song): I missed listening Barnett’s Things Take Time, Take Time album upon release in late 2021 and instead listened in early 2022. A grower of an album with several highlights. One of them being this track of breaking up but wanting to remain friends or at least go out with good memories. The video is equally as great.
3. Siouxsie and the Banshees – Icon (Song): Working through the Banshees catalogue, Join Hands was reviewed back in August. The album proved to be a grim listen at times, lacking some of the pop smarts of the band’s other work. Still, the track “Icon” was a standout. The slow building song changes midway to thundering drums before exploding into life.
2. Radiohead – Kid A (Album):Kid A is an album I’ve listened to off and on for 20 years but never for more than a few tracks at a time and had never really done a deep dive into the tracks. Released after the mega selling OK Computer, Kid A split opinion in the rock community, perhaps doing exactly what Thom Yorke was hoping. Listening to the album and reading Steven Hyden’s excellent book, This Isn’t Happening, was a personal highlight of enjoying art in multiple mediums in 2022.
1. The Beatles – Revolver (2CD Deluxe Edition) (Album): Rating another Giles Martin remix of an album by The Beatles is hardly the stuff of surprise at this point. Still, it’s hard to ignore when the attention gets turned to one of the greatest albums of all time in Revolver. The highlight of these packages, regardless of which edition you choose, is the bonus material. Hearing the all too familiar songs in different takes is thrilling. From instrumentals (“Eleanor Rigby”), stripped down versions (“Tomorrow Never Knows”) or raw takes (“Here, There and Everywhere”), the bonus album was a delight.
The third book in the A Song of Fire and Ice series, A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin won several awards after being published in 2000. This section of the story contains several weddings including Joffrey’s, Tyrion’s, and the dreaded red wedding. The latter is no less shocking having seen it on TV and now reading about it. In other chapters, the Night’s Watch are on the move back to the wall, Khaleesi marches onwards, and Arya travels with the Hound in one of the novel’s best plotlines. This epic book rivals the first for its staggering achievement and thrilling action.
Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the most popular books that gets recommended as a must read. It has sold over 20 million copies and translated into 24 different languages. The powerful first half of the book describing day to day life in a German concentration camp is a must read to discover the power of human resilience in devastating circumstances. The second half describes Frankl’s logotherapy philosophy. Frankl’s main message here is that people must find something to live for and that will help them survive anything, even the horrors of a concentration camp.
Steven Hyden’s book This Isn’t Happening goes into great detail on the band Radiohead surrounding the recording and release of their seminal Kid A album in 2000. Recognized as one of the top albums of the aughts, Kid A is a recording that was initially panned by critics and many fans alike. The book also takes in the history of the band leading up to Kid A as well as the aftermath of their recordings and career. Hyden is a knowledgeable music writer and here he has created a fascinating look at a polarizing album.
For a band like Radiohead, coming off the staggering success of 1997’s OK Computer, generally regarded as one of the best albums ever, following it up was going to be a challenge. It was a situation that nearly broke the group as they struggled for what direction to take. In the end, Kid A released in 2000 was a monumental shift for an arena rock band to take even if some of the groundwork had already been laid. Led by singer Thom Yorke, the band went down a path of adding the techno sounds of WARP records acts to their repertoire that would see some fans/critics rejoice in their newfound creativity and others regard the album as too far in left field for their tastes.
The minimalist “Everything In Its Right Place” opens the album with it’s distinctive synthesizer sound and robotic singing of “Kid A, Kid A”. The first sounds of a rock band appear on third track, “The National Anthem” that rides a repetitive bass riff and drums of Philip Selway. A saxophone jazz freakout helps make the song sound like an alien rock band beamed down to earth on a dark, windy night. Thom Yorke punches through the icy synths and electronic drums of “Idioteque” with repeated lines of “women and children first” with an “ice age coming”.
A warmer synth and Yorke singing the falsetto “release me” adds a human element to “Morning Bell”, a track that includes the haunting lines “cut the kids in half” which has made many wonder if it’s a divorce song. An acoustic guitar leads the atmospheric “How to Disappear Completely” as the downbeat chorus goes “I’m not hear/this isn’t happening”. A Jonny Greenwood lead string section brings even more of a human element to one of the finest songs on the album. Originally written the same day as “Creep”, “Motion Picture Soundtrack” adds a finality to the album, with a harmonium effect that sounds like it’s from a different time.
With production from Nigel Godrich, the entire band shifted their way of recording and writing songs in order to break free of the constraints that they felt the band was under after a string of successful 90s albums. No singles were ever released from Kid A, an album that has gone on to be regarded as one of the finest albums of the 21st century. Today, Kid A still stands as a remarkable achievement from one of the biggest bands in the world.