Thom Yorke is likely the most famous person in alternative music. Fronting the most famous band in alternative music, Radiohead, he has become a sonic giant, managing to keep his critical acclaim after earning commercial acclaim. It’s natural that he would have solo work, and has done enough outside of Radiohead for it not to be immediately compared to Radiohead. His supergroup Atoms For Peace had AMOK (QRO review) in 2013; now comes his solo Anima, which ups his natural electronic tendencies.
To make it straight: Anima is an electronica record, without the guitars of the man who once sung “Anyone Can Play Guitar” (okay, that was from nineties commercial breakthrough Pablo Honey, a.k.a. the record with “Creep”, but still…). Indeed, it hit #1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronica Albums Chart. This is an album of distant electronic beats, not any Greenwood guitars.
Once one accepts that, it is an impressively haunting piece of work. There are smoother, more relaxed moments such as “I Am a Very Rude Person”, but it is the echoing loss of tracks like “The Axe” and “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain)” that form the core of the record. And with Radiohead longtime producer Niles Godrich, Anima thankfully keeps things sparse and not overdone, always a risk when embracing the multi-tooled electronics.
But what might most stand out about Anima is that it doesn’t need any Radiohead comparisons, being both naturally like the band, because it comes from its frontman, and also not, because it’s not a Radiohead album. Thom Yorke has managed to pull off having a solo career that stands independent of his ‘main gig’ in the most famous alternative act in the world.