In Rainbows

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For the video album, see In Rainbows – From the Basement.
In Rainbows
Studio album by Radiohead
Released 10 October 2007
Recorded February 2005 – June 2007
Genre Alternative rock, experimental rock
Length 42:43
Label Self-released
Producer Nigel Godrich
Radiohead chronology
COM LAG (2plus2isfive)
(2004)
In Rainbows
(2007)
Radiohead Box Set
(2007)
Singles from In Rainbows
  1. "Jigsaw Falling into Place"
    Released: 14 January 2008
  2. "Nude"
    Released: 31 March 2008
  3. "House of Cards"/"Bodysnatchers"
    Released: May 2008
  4. "Reckoner"
    Released: 23 September 2008
  5. "All I Need"
    Released: 5 January 2009 (promotional)

In Rainbows is the seventh studio album by the English alternative rock band Radiohead. It was self-released on 10 October 2007 as a download via a pay-what-you-want model, followed by a standard CD release in most countries in the last week of 2007. The album was released in North America on 1 January 2008 on TBD Records. In Rainbows was Radiohead's first release after the end of their contract with EMI.

Recording with producer Nigel Godrich, Radiohead worked on In Rainbows for more than two years, beginning in early 2005. In between recording, the band toured Europe and North America for three months in mid-2006. The songwriting on In Rainbows was more personal than other Radiohead albums, with singer Thom Yorke describing most tracks as his versions of "seduction songs".[1] Radiohead incorporated a wide variety of musical styles and instruments, using not only electronic music and string arrangements, but also pianos, celestes, and the ondes Martenot.

Upon its retail release, In Rainbows entered the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200 at number one; by October 2008, it had sold more than three million copies worldwide in both digital and physical formats. The album earned widespread critical acclaim and was ranked as one of the best albums of 2007 by several publications. In 2009, it won two Grammy Awards for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Special Limited Edition Package.

Production[edit]

Recording[edit]

After a break from writing and recording in 2004, Radiohead began work on their seventh studio album in mid-February 2005.[2] Regular recording sessions began in August 2005, with the band updating fans on their progress intermittently in their new blog, Dead Air Space. Recording continued into early 2006, but the sessions were slow. According to Yorke, "we spent a long time in the studio just not going anywhere, wasting our time, and that was really, really frustrating."[3] The delay was attributed to difficulty regaining momentum after their break,[3] and the lack of both a deadline and producer to push things forward.[4] In the February 2006 sessions, they chose to work with producer Mark Stent instead of their longtime co-producer Nigel Godrich.[5] Bassist Colin Greenwood, commenting on their decision, said "Nigel and the band know each other so well now, it's all got a little too safe."[4] Although the band had written several new songs, little came of the sessions with Stent, which ended in April 2006.

Radiohead performing live at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley, California, during their 2006 tour

The band decided to tour for the first time in several years, giving themselves a goal to work toward. Yorke said: "Suddenly everyone is being spontaneous and no one's self-conscious because you're not in the studio ... it felt like being 16 again."[3] In May and June 2006, Radiohead toured major cities in Europe and North America, returning to Europe for several festivals in August. The band performed several songs they were working on in the studio.[3]

After the tour, the band restarted recording sessions, this time with Godrich, in October 2006 at Tottenham Court House in Marlborough, Wiltshire, a condemned mansion described by guitarist Ed O'Brien as an "old country pile ... crumbling at the seams." In contrast to the deadlocked 2005 sessions, the sessions were productive; final versions of "Jigsaw Falling into Place" and "Bodysnatchers" were recorded at the house.[6] Yorke said on Dead Air Space that the band had "started the record properly now ... starting to get somewhere I think. Finally."[7] Further sessions at Halswell House, Taunton, and Godrich's Hospital Studios in Covent Garden, where the band recorded "Videotape" and put together a final version of "Nude", took place in late December 2006.[6] In January 2007, Radiohead resumed their recording sessions in their Oxfordshire studio, and started to post photos, lyrics, videos and samples of new songs on Dead Air Space.[8] In late April, Yorke stated that Radiohead had a CD of material ready for consideration.[9] In June, Godrich posted clippings of the mixed songs on Dead Air Space, including "Jigsaw Falling into Place",[10] "Down Is the New Up", "Bangers + Mash", "All I Need", "Faust Arp" and "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi".[11] Recording having wrapped up in June, Bob Ludwig mastered the album in July 2007 at Gateway Mastering, New York City.[12]

Music and lyrical content[edit]

"Nude", originally written in 1997, represents Radiohead's merging of their minimalist, electronic and dub-influenced musical style with a quiet ballad.

In "House of Cards", Radiohead turns toward more traditional love ballads, while still retaining their electronic edge.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The album features many of the tracks debuted on Radiohead's 2006 tour, including "15 Step", "Bodysnatchers", "All I Need", "Videotape", "Arpeggi" and "Open Pick" (the last two being retitled "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" and "Jigsaw Falling into Place", respectively). The song "Nude", which premiered live during the OK Computer world tour, was finally released in 2007 on In Rainbows, albeit with a different arrangement. Radiohead performed a song with the working title of "Reckoner" in 2001. Working on the song in the In Rainbows sessions, the band abandoned the original material and created a new song with the same name.[13] Yorke released the song originally known as "Reckoner" as a solo track, "Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses", in 2009.

On the opening track "15 Step", the band enlisted the help of a group of children from the Matrix Music School & Arts Centre in Oxford.[14] Colin Greenwood and Godrich originally set out to record handclaps for the song, but when the clapping proved "not quite good enough", they decided to record the children cheering instead.[1] "Bodysnatchers", a song Yorke described as sounding like Wolfmother and "Neu! meets dodgy hippy rock",[4] was recorded when he was in a period of "hyperactive mania".[1] On "All I Need", Jonny Greenwood wanted to recapture the white noise generated by a band playing loudly in a room, a sound which never occurs in the studio. His solution was to have a string section play every note of the scale, blanketing the frequencies.[15] Yorke described the process of composing "Videotape" as "absolute agony", stating that the song "went through every possible parameter". One day, Yorke left the studio, returning to find that Godrich and Jonny Greenwood had stripped the song down to the version found on the album, a minimal piano ballad.[16]

Yorke has said that the album's lyrics are based on "that anonymous fear thing, sitting in traffic, thinking, 'I'm sure I'm supposed to be doing something else' ... it's similar to OK Computer in a way. It's much more terrifying."[17] At the same time, Yorke felt "there's very little anger in In Rainbows. It's in no way political, or, at least, doesn't feel that way to me. It very much explores the ideas of transience. It starts in one place and ends somewhere completely different."[18] In another interview, Yorke said the album was "about the fucking panic of realising you're going to die! And that any time soon [I could] possibly [have] a heart attack when I next go for a run."[19]

Ed O'Brien described the lyrics, saying "They were universal. There wasn't a political agenda. It's being human."[20] The song "Bodysnatchers" is inspired by Victorian ghost stories, the 1972 novel The Stepford Wives and Yorke's feeling of "your physical consciousness trapped without being able to connect fully with anything else."[15] "Jigsaw Falling into Place" is about a set of observations and different experiences, partly of the chaos witnessed by Yorke when he used to go out on the weekend in Oxford. Yorke said "The lyrics are quite caustic—the idea of 'before you're comatose' or whatever, drinking yourself into oblivion and getting fucked-up to forget ... [there] is partly this elation. But there's a much darker side."[1]

Artwork[edit]

The In Rainbows artwork was designed by Stanley Donwood, who has worked with Yorke in designing Radiohead's album art since 1994.[21] Donwood worked in the studio as Radiohead were working on the album, which allowed the mood of the music to be conveyed in the album artwork,[18] and regularly put up images in the studio and on the studio computer for the band to interact with and comment on. He also posted images daily on the band's website, though none of the images were used in the final album artwork.[22] Donwood experimented with a photographic etching technique, putting prints into acid baths with various results,[23] and throwing wax at paper, creating images influenced by NASA's space photographs.[18] Donwood originally planned to explore suburban life, but realised it did not fit the album's sound, saying "it's a sensual record and I wanted to do something more organic." Describing the album cover, Donwood said: "It's very colourful—I've finally embraced colour! It's a rainbow but it is very toxic, it's more like the sort of one you'd see in a puddle." The band decided not to release the cover for the digital release of the album, preferring to hold it back for the physical release.[24] The "discbox" release of the album includes a booklet containing additional artwork by Donwood.[23]

Release[edit]

Radiohead's six-album record contract with EMI ended after the 2003 release of Hail to the Thief, and Radiohead recorded In Rainbows without a record contract. In 2005, Yorke told Time: "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'Fuck you' to this decaying business model."[25] In August 2007, as Radiohead were finishing In Rainbows, EMI was acquired by the private equity firm Terra Firma in a $6.4 billion (£4.7 billion) public-to-private buyout transaction.[26][27] Radiohead were still negotiating with EMI, but the band was critical of the new Terra Firma management and no agreement was reached.[19] O'Brien said: "It was really sad to leave all the people [we'd worked with] ... But Terra Firma don't understand the music industry."[19]

On 30 September 2007, Jonny Greenwood announced Radiohead's seventh album on the band's blog, Dead Air Space, writing: "Well, the new album is finished, and it's coming out in 10 days . . . We've called it In Rainbows."[28] The blog post contained a link to inrainbows.com, where users could pre-order an MP3 version of the album for any amount they wanted, including £0—a landmark use of the pay-what-you-want model for music sales.[28] In a Wired interview with David Byrne, Yorke said: "Every record for the last four—including my solo record—has been leaked. So the idea was like, we'll leak it, then."[16] Radiohead ruled out an internet-only distribution for fear that some fans would not have internet access;[3] a traditional CD and vinyl release would follow in January.

Response[edit]

The pay-what-you-want release, the first for a major band, made headline news across the world and sparked debate about the implications for the music industry.[15] According to Mojo, the release was "hailed as a revolution in the way major bands sell their music", and the media's reaction was "almost overwhelmingly positive".[6] Time called it "easily the most important release in the recent history of the music business",[25] and Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote that "for the beleaguered recording business Radiohead has put in motion the most audacious experiment in years."[15] The NME wrote that "the music world seemed to judder several rimes off its axis", and praised the fact that everyone, from fans to critics, had access to the album at the same time on release day: "the kind of moment of togetherness you don’t get very often."[29] Singer Bono of U2 praised Radiohead as "courageous and imaginative in trying to figure out some new relationship with their audience".[30]

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who independently released his sixth album Ghosts I-IV under a Creative Commons licence the following year, thought the release did not go far enough, calling it "very much a bait and switch, to get you to pay for a MySpace quality stream as a way to promote a very traditional record sale."[30] Singer Lily Allen called the release "arrogant", saying: "[Radiohead have] millions of pounds. It sends a weird message to younger bands who haven't done as well. You don't choose how to pay for eggs. Why should it be different for music?"[31] In The Guardian, journalist Will Hodgkinson wrote: "Spare a thought for the thousands upon thousands of bands and singers who, nowhere near Radiohead's levels of fame and fortune, now have pretty much no chance of ever making a living from their music."[32]

Radiohead's managers defended the release as "a solution for Radiohead, not the industry", and doubted "it would work the same way [for Radiohead] ever again."[33] Radiohead did not repeat the pay-what-you-want release for their subsequent self-released album The King of Limbs (2011).

Formats and distribution[edit]

For the In Rainbows download release, Radiohead employed the network provider PacketExchange to bypass public internet servers, using a less-trafficked private network.[34] The download was packaged as a ZIP file containing the album's ten tracks encoded in 160 kbit/s DRM-free MP3 format.[35] The staggered online release began at about 5:30am GMT on 10 October 2007. On 10 December, the download was removed.[36]

Fans could also order a limited "discbox" edition from inrainbows.com, containing the album on CD and two 12" heavyweight 45 rpm vinyl records with artwork and lyric booklets, plus an enhanced CD with eight additional tracks, digital photos and artwork, packaged in a hardcover book and slipcase. The "discbox" edition was shipped on December 3, 2007.[37]

In Rainbows was released on CD and vinyl in Japan by BMG on 26 December 2007,[38] in Australia on 29 December 2007 by Remote Control Records,[39] and in the United States and Canada on 1 January 2008 by ATO imprint TBD Records and MapleMusic/Fontana respectively.[40][41] Elsewhere, the album was released on 31 December 2007 by independent record label XL Recordings.[42] The CD release came in a cardboard package containing the CD, lyric booklet, and several stickers that could be placed on the blank jewel case to create cover art.[43] In Rainbows was the first Radiohead album available for download in several digital music stores, such as the iTunes Store and Amazon MP3.[44]

Radiohead retained ownership of the recordings and compositions for In Rainbows. The download and "discbox" versions of the album were self-released; for the physical release, Radiohead licensed the music to record labels.[45] Licensing agreements for all releases were managed by the band's publisher, Warner Chappell Music Publishing.[45]

Promotion[edit]

On New Year's Eve 2007, Current TV streamed a webcast of "Scotch Mist", a performance filmed at Radiohead's Oxford studios featuring In Rainbows songs, poetry and additional footage.[46] In March 2008, Radiohead partnered with animation site Aniboom to create a contest whereby entrants submitted storyboards for an animated music video for an In Rainbows song. The winner, who would receive $10,000 to create a full length music video, was chosen by AniBOOM, Radiohead, TBD Records, and Adult Swim, which aired the winning video.[47] The band were so impressed with the quality of the entries they awarded $10,000 each to four different winners, plus $1,000 to each of ten semifinalists to create a one-minute clip.[48] Radiohead toured North America, Europe, South America and Japan in support of In Rainbows from May 2008 until March 2009.[49][50]

Commercial performance[edit]

In early October 2007, a Radiohead spokesperson reported that most downloaders paid "a normal retail price" for the download version, and that most fans had pre-ordered the "discbox" edition.[51] Citing a source close to the band, Gigwise.com reported that the album had sold 1.2 million copies by the day of its retail release;[52] however, this was dismissed by Radiohead manager Bryce Edge as "exaggerated".[53] In December 2007, Radiohead members told The Observer that they had sold between 60,000 and 80,000 discboxes;[19] in another interview in the same month, Yorke stated that Radiohead had made more money from digital sales of In Rainbows than the digital sales of all previous Radiohead albums combined.[16] In October 2008, one year after the album's release, Warner Chappell reported that although most people paid nothing for the download, pre-release sales for In Rainbows were more profitable than the total sales of Hail to the Thief, and that the "discbox" had sold 100,000 copies.[54]

Because inrainbows.com is not a chart-registered retailer, In Rainbows download and "discbox" sales were not eligible for inclusion in the UK Albums Chart.[55] On the week of its retail release, In Rainbows peaked at number one on the UK Album Chart,[56] with first week sales of 44,602 copies.[57] After some record stores broke street date agreements, the album entered the Billboard 200 at number 156, but in the first week of its official release reached number one and sold 122,000 copies in the United States,[58] making it the 10th independently distributed album to reach number 1 on the Billboard 200.[59] In October 2008, Warner Chappell Music Publishing reported that In Rainbows had sold three million copies (1.75 million of which were physical format sales[60]) since its physical release in January.[61] The vinyl edition of In Rainbows was the best selling vinyl album of 2008.[62][63]

In the US, "Nude" reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was also Radiohead's first single to appear on the Billboard Pop 100 chart. "Bodysnatchers" reached number eight on the US Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart.[64] "Jigsaw Falling into Place" charted more poorly, peaking at number 69 in airplay on alternative rock-oriented stations.[65] "All I Need" was serviced to US adult album alternative radio by TBD Records on 5 January 2009.[66]

Critical reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 88/100[67]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[68]
Entertainment Weekly A[69]
NME 9/10[70]
Pitchfork Media 9.3/10[71]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars 2007[72]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars 2008[73]
Stylus Magazine A-[74]

In Rainbows received widespread critical acclaim, earning a rating of 88 out of 100 on Metacritic, which indicates "universal acclaim".[75] Rolling Stone gave the album four and a half stars out of five. Reviewer Rob Sheffield felt the album contained "no wasted moments, no weak tracks: just primo Radiohead."[76] A review by NME described the album as "Radiohead reconnecting with their human sides, realising you [can] embrace pop melodies and proper instruments while still sounding like paranoid androids ... this [is] otherworldly music, alright."[70] AllMusic, in a positive review, noted that the album "will hopefully be remembered as Radiohead's most stimulating synthesis of accessible songs and abstract sounds, rather than their first pick-your-price download."[77] Entertainment Weekly called the album "the gentlest, prettiest Radiohead set yet ... [it uses] the full musical and emotional spectra to conjure breathtaking beauty".[78]

Various reviewers, such as The Guardian '​s Alexis Petridis, attributed the album's quality to Radiohead's performance in the studio and that the band sounded like they were enjoying themselves.[79] Others, such as Billboard's Jonathan Cohen, commended the album for not being overshadowed by its marketing hype.[80] Newsweek ranked the album fifth on its list of the ten best albums of the decade,[81] while Rolling Stone ranked it at number 30 on its list of the 100 best albums of the decade.[82]

Blender '​s review, although mostly positive, felt the album seemed "to be primarily composed of love songs ... that are starving for human connection but generate all the interpersonal warmth of a GPS system".[83] The Wire was also critical, finding "a sense here of a group magisterially marking time, shying away ... from any grand, rhetorical, countercultural purpose."[84]

In Rainbows was ranked as one of the best albums of 2007 by many music publications.[85] It came in at the top spot in Billboard, Mojo and PopMatters' list. NME and The A.V. Club ranked the album third in their lists, Pitchfork Media and Q placed it fourth, while Rolling Stone and Spin ranked it sixth.[85] In Rainbows was nominated for the short list of the 2008 Mercury Music Prize[86] and received nominations for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Best Alternative Music Album, Producer of the Year, Non-Classical and Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package. Three Grammy nominations also went to the song and music video for "House of Cards".[87] In Rainbows won awards for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Special Limited Edition Package.[88] In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album No. 336 on their updated version of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[89]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Radiohead

No. Title Length
1. "15 Step"   3:58
2. "Bodysnatchers"   4:02
3. "Nude"   4:15
4. "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi"   5:18
5. "All I Need"   3:48
6. "Faust Arp"   2:09
7. "Reckoner"   4:50
8. "House of Cards"   5:28
9. "Jigsaw Falling into Place"   4:09
10. "Videotape"   4:42

Bonus disc[edit]

The original discbox release of the album included a second disc, which contains eight additional tracks. It is 26:55 in duration.[37] On 9 June 2009, Radiohead made the tracks from this disc available for download at their "w.a.s.t.e." online store,[90] and a pressing released contains both CDs without the original box.

No. Title Length
1. "MK 1"   1:03
2. "Down Is the New Up"   4:59
3. "Go Slowly"   3:48
4. "MK 2"   0:53
5. "Last Flowers"   4:26
6. "Up on the Ladder"   4:17
7. "Bangers + Mash"   3:19
8. "4 Minute Warning"   4:04

Personnel[edit]

Radiohead
Additional personnel

Charts[edit]

Chart Peak
position[91]
UK Albums Chart 1
US Billboard 200 1
Australian ARIA Albums Chart 2
Canadian Albums Chart 1
French Albums Chart 1
Irish Albums Chart 1
New Zealand RIANZ Albums Chart 2
Germany Albums Chart 8
Japan Oricon Albums Chart 11

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