earthings! 2016: My ten favorites of the year

Here we are again – the end of the year, or at least the end of our year here on earthings!, as we take that long holiday break to recharge, or whatever passes for that these days. And it’s been a busy year, or perhaps because we found ourselves juggling a lot of things on many fronts – lots of changes off screen, and a bunch of new features on screen. But I digress. Here we are again – the end of our year on the blog, which means I trot out my ten favorite songs of the year – not a definitive list by all means; just a reflection of what I’ve liked, considering that I seem to have listened to less new music and more K-pop these past few months. So, here’s the list, arranged alphabetically as always. [NB]

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Review: A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead

A Moon Shaped Pool by RadioheadAgain, context makes a difference. In my case, I was listening to this album on the night of the Philippine elections, my Twitter feeds going on overdrive as the results started to sink in. In my case, it’s this weird mix of dread, resignation, forced optimism – little jubilation – and A Moon Shaped Pool, the British band’s ninth outing, somehow manages to fit. I mean, just the first two tracks released, “Burn the Witch” and “Daydreaming”, guided all those moods perfectly. But, again, that’s context. On its own, Radiohead’s new release is an elegant little thing: a focus on more orchestral arrangements, with the expected left turns and glitches, that yearns back to the band’s first steps towards experimentation in the late 90s. It’s strongly coherent without sounding like the “pop record” of their career, not that they need to do that. (And besides, they already have done that.) It’s certainly more focused than King of Limbs, their last album, which, while interesting in its jazzy glitchiness, felt a bit scattershot. And it says something that they managed to throw in a proper studio version of “True Love Waits” – first released as a live recording in 2001 – and it doesn’t feel like it was tossed in at the end for good measure. [NB]4/5

Review: Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes by Thom Yorke

Tomorrow's Modern Boxes by Thom YorkeThis would have been another “the story is the distribution model, not the content” story, but given that this is Thom Yorke, there wouldn’t be that much sneering about it. I would be amiss to not acknowledge that Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, the Radiohead frontman’s second solo outing, was released via BitTorrent, in a system that allows fans to pay the artist directly. It’s not as far out, but a bit more radical, than the pay-what-you-like system of In Rainbows – and that precedent wipes out any cynicism left over from U2’s Songs of Innocence. No feeling of scraps here. Thom builds on his work on The Eraser and his Atoms for Peace project: wobbly electronica that’s warmer than most of his solo work, bleeps and glitches now just part of a degustation menu rather than the whole thing to itself. On the other hand, there isn’t much envelope-pushing on the record, but the stronger sense of melody – “Interference” and “The Mother Lode” stand out here – makes Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes an interesting add to the Yorke lexicon. [NB]4/5