Entering the mind of a legend can be a challenging experience. To find their exact message is difficult because it is typically hidden underneath the many layers of meaning. However, when you discover that the first cathartic moment of connection, you will remind yourself why you like this artist. Thom Yorke is simply that person. He continuously finds ways test our way of thinking. After his success with his first solo release in 2006, Eraser, it was evident that his personal projects were just as effective. Exploring new electronic dimensions that were layered over unusual syncopated beats, Thom clearly displayed another side of himself. Now, Radiohead’s front man is back with yet another influential album entitled Anima. Working alongside his longtime friend and producer Nigel Godrich, they give us an album that acknowledges the dissonance between knowing the moment and being far removed.
With a fast release set on the sequencer, raising the filter creates an atmospheric ensemble that softly introduces the album. Properly titled, the song “Traffic” drops the affectionate beat early on to begin telling the story of the submissive “stop and go” lifestyle that we are in. Thom explains his sense of detachment in the lines, “I can’t breathe / There’s no water / Drip fed / Foie Gras.” Pressed by the restrictions that suffocate freedom and creative capabilities, he illustrates a cruel “yuppie” dish to represent an individual’s conscious state of mind. Driven by the forces of the wobbly bass-synth, the oscillation passes through the high-filtered sequence to lay out foundation for the airy vocals. Inevitably, a dystopian characteristic is born, which allows Thom to resurrect the undeniable question that one is commonly avoiding – am I really free?
Jumping from one emotion to another, one can find themselves strangely hypnotized by the subtleties. In the song, “Twist,” the cunning synthesizer deliberately cultivates a somber ambience that sounds like a wave crashing into the sea. As the beat keeps the momentum steady, his emblematic voice puts us on our toes as we wait for a break that never comes. Constructing a space that can be considered nirvana to some or an abyss of anxiety for others. Using music to fight the middle ground, Thom is a natural at creating sonic ambivalence. Each part of the song depicts the theme. From the title itself to the repetition of his voice, each element has a specific purpose and amplifies the notion of one’s inner conflict.
The definitive moment of the album occurs when the song “Dawn Chorus” comes on. With stellar synthesis creating an atmospheric home for the stream of consciousness, the dreary piano and monotone voice symbolize the monotony of life. In a recent 2019 interview with Apple Music, Thom said, “on a musical or technical level, I was deliberately trying to find something as cold as possible to go with the lyrics. Essentially, I sing one fucking note all the way through, and the chords just go around and around.” By using the power of minimalism, Thom demonstrates the brutality of truth. The haunting translation is transfixed by using his consistent technique of repetition. An eerie lullaby that puts us into a personal nightmare that is necessary. It comes across as if he’s facing a personal demon and surpassing the negative withdraws. All this is considered from a song that does not have a lot of layering and consider “easier” that most of his complex tracks. However, sometimes the simplest songs have a greatest effect
Additionally, Thom Yorke partnered up with legendary director, Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA) to make a fifteen-minute musical that was released on NetFlix’s on June 27th. PTA outdid himself with this spellbinding “one-reeler,” for the cinematography is cohesive and mesmerizing. The choreography is perfectly orchestrated and depicts the mood of the music. The opening scene displays the exhaustion of people on a subway as the song “Not the News” begins. With an ensemble using classic voguing techniques to portray the somnolence of humanity, Thom Yorke and his girlfriend, Dajana Roncione takes us on their journey of connective chaos.
Radiohead fans never doubt one of their albums; therefore, when it comes to a Thom Yorke solo album, it is almost guaranteed that it is going to be nothing but amazing. The strange part is to notice how one is able to connect with him on a personal level from a distance. Revealing the bizarre concepts that characterize our habits and mood as the modality of the music represents our irrevocable uncertainty. It is no secret that Thom is able to find the words and sounds that we are all looking for at times. Giving us the ability to self-reflect on the collection of bullshit that life has to offer. It is important to acknowledge good work when it comes our way and understand the reasons in why an album can feel or be as transformative as it is. From his weird mind to another, it is good to know that one’s personal “weirdness” is not alone.