#1. Radiohead, Kid A (2000): Anticipation for a follow up to 1997’s hugely successful Ok Computer was immense, and for good reason. Once thought of as standard bearers of the brit rock movement of the early 90s, Radiohead stepped out of that mold with a more expansive collection of work that took form as a concept album. Beyond the signature arena-rock sound were more sonic textures that made for an amazing album that truly set them apart from their fellow countrymen. With the release of Kid A, never again would they be compared to anyone else. Like any other fan of Radiohead, I went through 4 stages while digesting this album; shock, disgust, curiosity, then finally sheer admiration. Mostly gone were the guitar-oriented songs that were the hallmark of both Ok Computer and The Bends. In their place were songs like the opener, “Everything in its Right Place.” An entirely electric, experimental tune with a very unconventional song structure; needless to say I was not thrilled. But in time, I grew to realize that it wasn’t the music that I didn’t like, it was the fact that it was different from what I had come to know and love about Radiohead. Taking the record on its face, it is a wonderful mixture of electronica, alt-rock, classical, techno and even jazz fusion; a huge contrast from anything they had done before. There’s still some guitar-driven stuff here on tracks like “The National Anthem” and “Optimistic.” But more often they choose to eschew distortion pedals for exotic synthesizers and other creative sounds like on the technocratic “Idioteque;” An earnest shout out to techno progenitors Kraftwerk.
All across the musical landscape, it is common practice for bands to mail it in once they’ve reached superstar status [see U2]. Instead of taking the easy path, Radiohead embarked on an ambitious undertaking. It is for this reason that it stands atop my list of the best albums of the decade.
Faves: Everything in its Right Place, The National Anthem, Optimistic, Idioteque.