Nearly a Decade of Falling Asleep to Radiohead Albums

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Radiohead is not actually a boring band. Engaged, active listening to their music reveals layers upon layers of hidden sounds, deep, melancholic lyrical content, innovative guitar playing, and complex drum patterns. Their sound as a band has been known to abruptly change between albums, often in exciting and influential directions. As musicians, their raw technical ability alone places them, rightfully so, in the top tier of alternative rock. I feel the need to say all this so that it’s clear before I continue — I generally like Radiohead.

But damn, do they put me to sleep.

Let’s rewind to 2007. This is the year I am properly introduced to their music through the pay-what-you-want release of In Rainbows that October. Before this I was only vaguely familiar with the alt-radio staple “Creep” and the name of the band. This is where I was at when a friend stuck earbuds in me and introduced me to the sick 5/4 groove that drives In Rainbows opener “15 Step” and exposed me to the dangerous strain of the Band Fever contagion known as a Radiohead-cold.

“Creep” went from “I’ve heard this before” to “this song rules” as soon as the plastic-instrument video game Rock Band came out the next month. Frequent f.y.e. runs yielded pre-owned copies of Pablo Honey and The Bends, and I even bought a T-shirt I wear to this day from the Virgin Records megastore at the mall. This is a quick onset disease and I was terribly ill for most of 2007’s final quarter. Then it happened for the first of many times.

DECEMBER 25, 2007
OK Computer was given to me as a Christmas gift and moved into its new home, my portable CD player. One of our family holiday obligations was a visit to my aunt’s house, where the adults talked about whatever they talk about, and the kids (I was 17 at the time but violently disinterested in anything but music, which adults never talked about enough) were left with a very comfy couch and any presents they were able to jam under their arms. What this means in practice is that late on an active Christmas Day, I had access for the first time to the runner-up for greatest, sleepiest alternative album of the '90s (the winner is obviously My Bloody Valentine's Loveless), as well as ultimate sleeping surface. Any way you combine those ingredients, the result is a big nap.

May 15, 2008
One morning, just weeks before high-school graduation and the supposed beginning of my Real Life, I found myself totally awake at 5 a.m. School wouldn’t start for hours and at the time I slept in my jeans so I had nothing but time. Having been told I wasn’t enjoying Kid A the correct way, I figured this was my chance to really grapple with it the way it deserves. I did everything short of mind-altering drugs to prepare myself for an experimental masterpiece: put on the nice headphones, turned out the lights, and laid down on the bed. Naturally, this is another recipe for nap time, but my anxiety over exiting the sheltered womb of mandatory education into an uncertain world managed to keep my eyes open. It was hard to believe “Everything In Its Right Place” when the dissonant music and my uneasy state of mind were everywhere but. Kid A suddenly made sense to me — I was sucked into what I can only describe as a transcendent musical experience for the better part of an hour. And then I fell asleep.

FEBRUARY 18, 2011
Fans might recognize this as the release date of Radiohead’s 9th album, The King of Limbs. I escaped the three roommates at my new apartment (with one bathroom, eesh), downloaded the highly anticipated album first thing in the morning, and tracked the rapid succession of my reaction from excited to disappointed to snoozing at the keyboard. I’ve since listened to the rest of that album, and I stand by this one.

MAY 9, 2016

A Moon Shaped Pool came unexpectedly on a Sunday. My sleep-aid ingredients for this time are as follows: 2 parts Monday, 1 part big lunch, 3 parts Radiohead. If Thom Yorke aka Mr. Sandman’s lullaby voice can get me at work, I consider myself lucky he’s never struck behind the wheel. It is with almost unironic conviction that I suggest Thom Yorke record an album of lullabies for an effective non-narcotic insomnia cure. I had just fallen asleep after dutifully listening to A Moon Shaped Pool for a third time that Monday afternoon when a friend asked “Isn’t it hauntingly beautiful, though?”, to which I replied, “I’d be more surprised if they did something that didn’t fit that description.” Radiohead’s music is as hauntingly beautiful as a small orphaned child singing hymns in an abandoned cathedral and whoops, I just fell asleep thinking about it.

Sometimes the only way to get over an illness as common as the Radiohead-cold is to sleep it off.

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