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Baker's Dozen

Languages Inhabited: Teju Cole's Favourite Albums
Teju Cole , August 24th, 2016 09:28

Following the publication of his first collection of essays, Known And Strange Things, the writer and photographer pens us his own Baker's Dozen, picking "as many kinds of albums that really mattered to me as possible"


Radiohead – In Rainbows
How many people end up putting a Radiohead album on their Quietus list? But the shoe fits: they are worth the mental and acoustic space they occupy in our lives as one of the most inventive, intricate and, paradoxically, communicative bands currently at work. But if you had to pick just the one Radiohead album, which would it be?

Every album they've released since Pablo Honey – from the second studio offering, The Bends, to this year's A Moon Shaped Pool – has been a revolver fired into the complacent air of popular music. I love them all. I loved Kid A more than OK Computer, and Amnesiac more than Kid A; each successive album seemed to me an improvement on its predecessor. "They've done that, what will they do now?" was always the question. Radiohead never disappointed in this essential matter of pushing themselves. I never thought of even the atmospheric and boneless Amnesiac as a diversion: it was essential to the journey, and I cherished it too.

I think they eventually came to some sort of high creative plateau with the release of the sixth studio album, Hail To The Thief, in 2003. That album, as well as the ones that followed – In Rainbows, The King Of Limbs and A Moon Shaped Pool – all show the twitchy, spooky mode of their mature songwriting, as well as the available depths of their ballads. They were making music for a deeply unsettled time, the post-9/11 era.

My choice of those albums is In Rainbows. I could live without its first two tracks, which are fine but not extraordinary. But the remainder of the album – the eight-song sequence that begins with Nude and ends with Videotape is, to my ears, sheer compositional and performance heaven. These are the terrifying lullabies our age of surveillance deserves.