It’s hard to pick Radiohead’s best tracks since there are just so many. But it’s easy to suggest, after the undeniable love toward “No Surprises” and “Creep,” there are some stellar and overlooked Radiohead tracks which need more recognition, both on and off studio releases.
Since Radiohead has recently made a resurgence, going back on tour and rumors of new music have been going around, it’s a good time to brush up on some of the buried gems.
In order of album release year:
“Faithless the Wonderboy” // The Itch EP (1994)
An underrated tune from a commonly unheard EP. This track is early Radiohead at its best, definitely a visible connection to the stylistic choices of Pablo Honey. Its raw and gritty guitar riffs waver nicely between their signature lyricism: simultaneously accessible yet ambiguous.
“(Nice Dream)” // The Bends (1995)
“Fake Plastic Trees” and “My Iron Lung” dominate Radiohead listeners’ tops when it comes to picking songs from The Bends. This track has an overwhelming sense of calm and comfort, greatly paired with the soothing acoustic guitar and airy guitar floating along with Yorke’s, appropriately, dreamy voice.
“Treefingers” // Kid A (2000)
Radiohead is famous for their signature atmospheric tunes, and to a casual listener, this track may appear unimportant or even empty in relation with the rest of the record. The listener has to consider this track in conjunction with the rest of the album to figure out how much it’s really worth. When in reality, this song is a sublime way to tie the record together as a whole, providing an encapsulation of the minimalist transcendent experience of Kid A.
“Dollars & Cents” // Amnesiac (2001)
“Dollars & Cents” has a mysteriously unheard sound, unlike anything else Radiohead has put out. It is delightfully braided, with mysterious orchestral accompaniments and Yorke’s seemingly incongruous layered vocal tracks. The pacing of the song is refreshing, with an atmosphere only appropriate for a record the likes of Amnesiac, but still a track way past its time in complexity.
“A Punch Up at a Wedding” // Hail to the Thief (2003)
There are few songs by Radiohead which are so obviously and overtly dominated with one specific emotion in its lyrics, and this track is lovely in its execution despite its lyrics appearing simple. The lyrics depict a certain mood, while the instrumentation combats it with such a different tone. The juxtaposition alone is enough to keep the song infinitely interesting.
“We Suck Young Blood” // Hail to the Thief (2003)
There are some haunting Radiohead tracks, but this is the crème de la crème. The trepid, minor tunes of the piano swimming through the song with Thom Yorke’s shaking, wavering voice leave a lasting impression on the listener as he questions “Are you hungry? Are you sick? Are you begging for a break?”
“Videotape” // In Rainbows (2007)
Whether this song is “underrated” is debatable, nonetheless, it is still not discussed as much as it’s worth. While it is a quietly loved track on In Rainbows, it is often masked by the popularity and beat of 15 Step. For a finale track to a very vibrant album, it’s slow and understated in its verbosity and simplistic nature.
“Fog” // Amnesiac Collector’s Edition (2009)
This song begins so delicately, much like droplets of rain falling on a window. The song is not only masterful in creating a type of atmosphere for the listener, it permeates more than just the ears — it gives an overwhelming sense of “fog,” a haziness, an uncertainty, a desire to pursue further into the unknown. A song that can go further than just sound, bleeding into the other senses, is a great piece.
“Staircase” // The Daily Mail & Staircase (2011)
This song has such a hypnotic, commanding beat that continually builds upon itself. It keeps adding new elements like a slightly jazzy guitar riff or a light, repetitive bell; all this happens without overwhelming the listener. The best aspect about this track is it crescendos in a convincing, organic fashion, which keeps the audience climbing up the staircase in bliss.