Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is back with a new side project called Atoms for Peace. The band boasts an impressive, if curious, lineup including longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea.
Amok sounds a lot like Yorke’s earlier side project: a frenetic studio release called The Erasure. That isn’t a bad thing, as both albums create a digitized, fuzzy soundscape perfect for a day of yoga or walking around the city wearing headphones. In short, it’s music that makes you feel like you’re in a trendy commercial: not overwhelming but impossible to ignore.
The album is the kind of stripped down laptop electronic music that you’re accustomed to if you listen to Yorke’s band Radiohead. Yorke’s vocals, much like his vocals in Radiohead, are haunting and a little sparse. The contrast between his soothing vocals and the jittery, glitchy beats behind them creates a dynamic sounds that allows Amok to feel interesting and fresh without ever becoming too inaccessible.
The Afro-Pop inspired track “Before Your Very Eyes” is the album’s clear standout. It’s one of very few tracks that actual uses guitars. The track sets a nice pace for Amok and positions is as distinctly different than Yorke’s subpar work on 2011’s King of Limbs. Where King of Limbs gives us stripped down electronic music that sounds cold and sterile, Amok is Yorke doing electronic music that sounds more energized and alive. Where Kind of Limbs had sprawling beats and minimalist singing, Amok has up-tempo beats and funky bass lines.
While I enjoyed Amok, I can’t help but point out that even Yorke’s side projects sound like Radiohead albums. He’s certainly grown as a musician, but his sound seems like more of the same. Luckily, that sound is strong enough that he can get away with it.
The Verdict: Amok is a great starter into Yorke’s solo work from Radiohead and a must hear for any die-hard Radiohead fan.
Date released: February 25, 2013
Label: XL Records
Collaborators: Mauro Refosco, Joey Waronker