Whoa, how did I manage to miss this one for at least a few years? Awhile back you might recall that Radiohead released “stems” for their song “Reckoner” from In Rainbows. These stems basically are individual tracks from the song, not quite the raw multi-track recordings, but rather they were grouped into different pieces like strings and rhythm guitar or background vocals or lead vocal or lead guitar or drums and percussion. With these stems they allowed you to remix the song and upload it to a cool site where you could vote on your favorites. The results were decidedly mixed as to be expected from such a project. But there were some gems.
Among them was Julianna Barwick’s version:
Now I vaguely remember hearing this one once or twice perhaps. I’ve known of Barwick now for a year or two and always admired her stuff. It simply never clicked with me who created this remix. But with Barwick’s new amazing masterpiece album The Magic Place, I am more than aware of who she is. That record completely sold on her ambient choral music: it’s transcendent, effervescent and absolutely stunning work.
Somehow, I guess I just missed this complete reinvention of one of my favorite Radiohead songs. It totally works and hints at how amazing a collaboration with Yorke could potentially be.
One of the things that everyone seemed to forget when discussing Peter Bjorn And John’s breakout album Writer’s Block was it’s conciseness. When you boiled down the glockenspiels and whistling that made “Young Folks” such a monstrous, ubiquitous hit, the songs on that record were lean, simple and melodically memorable. The song structures were just innately well crafted and clean, something their follow up, Living Thing was absolutely not. That record was drowned out by needless electronic layers and bloated synths — they went big when they probably should’ve gone smaller.
Well with their newest record Gimme Some, the band seems to have returned somewhat to form. The songs aren’t nearly as tight and catchy as on Writer’s Block, but they’ve definitely pared down the flabbiness and sheen. The best example of this is the impossibly short, perfectly constructed “Breaker Breaker.” The song is a minute and 38 seconds, yet it feels fully thought out and a powerful burst of British Invasion rock and punk rock energy.
The video for this song also brilliantly captures the fury, the speed and explosive nature of the song — in a way that makes you sit and try to figure out how they made it (film in slow motion and speed it up so it’s in sync?) Bands don’t seem to do songs this short anymore because let’s face it, it’s freaking hard to do. So bully for Peter Bjorn & John. They’ve pulled it off and outdone themselves in the process.