In Rainbows is the seventh studio album by English Alternative Rock band Radiohead, released in 2007 after 2 years of production and serving as their comeback album after a 4-year hiatus following their last album, Hail to the Thief, in which band members took a break and pursued individual efforts (Thom creating his first solo album The Eraser, Jonny scoring Bodysong and There Will Be Blood).
The album is also their first on XL Recordings, onto which Yorke was already signed as a solo artist, having left their old UK and US labels Parlophone Records and Capitol Records (respectively) due to them having already fulfilled their six-album contract with EMI, as well as due to the band's growing dissatisfaction with major label culture. The band and their individual members would continue to release both Radiohead and solo material through XL in the years since.
The album employs distinctly more personal lyricism than previous Radiohead albums, also incorporating a variety of instrumentation that includes electronics, strings, piano, and the ondes Martenot.
It debuted at #1 in both the US and the UK, and in one year sold 3 million copies in both physical and digital formats. The album was also notable for its innovative "pay what you want" system that got lots of media coverage and was promptly discontinued for future albums. The decision to utilize the system for this album in particular was influenced by a Content Leak of an unfinished draft of Hail to the Thief that drew the band's ire (not because Digital Piracy Is Evil, but because it meant people were hearing an unfinished product). The influence was so strong that the band referred to the album's date of release as their "leak date."
Following the band's dissatisfaction with the influx of tracks on Hail to the Thief, they vowed to avoid the same mistake with In Rainbows, settling on a 10-song tracklist, saving any additional material for limited-edition releases. This led to the special edition of the album including a second disc of 8 extra songs, known simply as In Rainbows Disk 2. The songs were uploaded to the band's website in 2009, and subsequently to streaming services as an EP in 2016.
The album earned widespread acclaim and was cited to be one of the best albums of the year and the decade, and when Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time updated in 2012, In Rainbows snagged the #336 spot. It won Grammys for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Special Edition Limited Package, and in summer 2008 the band re-performed the album in full from the basement. Among fans, the album was considerably more divisive due to its more mainstream-friendly sound compared to the experimental direction of the band's latter albums with Parlophone, but in the years since, fan reaction has grown more unanimously positive.
In Rainbows was supported by three singles: "Jigsaw Falling into Place", "Nude", and "Reckoner"; "House of Cards" was also released as a promotional single. In addition to these singles and their music videos, every other song received their own music videos via a contest in 2008 where fans submitted storyboards for video ideas, with the winners being given $10,000 to make their visions a reality. The band also promoted the album with the Thumbs Down and Scotch Mist webcasts, performing a variety of songs off of In Rainbows, covering other artists, and showcasing poetry and music videos.
- "15 Step" (3:58)
- "Bodysnatchers" (4:02)
- "Nude" (4:15)
- "Weird Fishes / Arpeggi" (5:18)
- "All I Need" (3:48)
- "Faust Arp" (2:09)
- "Reckoner" (4:50)
- "House of Cards" (5:28)
- "Jigsaw Falling into Place" (4:09)
- "Videotape" (4:42)
- "MK 1" (1:03)
- "Down is the New Up" (4:59)
- "Go Slowly" (3:48)
- "MK 2" (0:53)
- "Last Flowers" (4:26)
- "Up on the Ladder" (4:17)
- "Bangers + Mash" (3:19)
- "4 Minute Warning" (4:04)
You are not to blame for bittersweet tropers:
- Album Title Drop: The rising background voices during the bridge of "Reckoner":Because we separate like ripples on a blank shore in rainbows
- Alice Allusion: See Cheshire Cat Grin below.
- Animal Motifs: "All I Need:"(...) I'm an animal trapped in your hot car(...) I'm a moth who just wants to share your light(...) I'm just an insect trying to get out of the night
- Also, "weird fishes", "the elephant that's in the room" ("Faust Arp"), and two references to cats in "15 Step" and "Jigsaw Falling into Place".
- Arc Number: 10. In Rainbows has ten letters, the album has ten tracks, tens are prominent in album artwork and promo material, and it was announced ten days before release.
- It was released ten years after OK Computer, which makes some believe that the two are companion albums.
- The record was announced on October 1st and came out on the 10th.
- Then there is the 01 and 10 playlist. It sounds even better if you set a 10 second crossfade on your player.
- Audience Participation Song: Everyone does the stomp clap thing for "15 Step."
- Bittersweet Ending: "Videotape." Despite being an utterly heart-shattering track, it bows out on: "Today has been the most perfect day I've ever seen."
- Brutal Honesty: "Nude:"Don't get any
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Referenced by name in "Jigsaw Falling into Place:"You got a Cheshire cat grin
- Digital Piracy Is Okay: The album was distributed through a "pay what you want" system that got lots of media attention, although the band has now discontinued it.
- Feelies: The initial CD release of the album was in the form of a pressboard envelope containing a DIY CD case kit featuring the disc, liner notes, a series of stickers, and an instructions sheet. According to the instructions, the idea is that buyers would peel of the stickers and stick them either on the front, back, and sides of a blank jewel case or on both the liner notes and a blank U-card insert that'd then be inserted into a blank jewel case. Later re-pressings forgo this unorthodox style of packaging and instead use a traditional digipak.
- Gratuitous Panning: "Reckoning" splits the percussion to feature the drums solely in the right channel and maracas in the left, with the other instruments in the backing track being centered in the mix.
- Last Note Nightmare: "15 Step" keeps a consistent 5/4 rhythm and consistent key until the very end of the song, which fades out on a distorted off-key chord. In the Animated Music Video, it's made even scarier with a completely Off-Model gun zooming in toward the viewer.
- Lighter and Softer: Don't get us wrong; there's plenty of Thom Yorke's angst in the tracks, but the overall sound is a lot lighter and less oppressive than their previous works.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "15 Step" is a very warm and upbeat song about a failed love that at least partially uses metaphors connected to hanging, with instances such as the line revolving around the Title Drop ("15 steps, then a sheer drop").
- Motor Mouth: "Faust Arp".
- Mythology Gag: The text on the tracklist and in the liner notes being spread out so that every line occupies the same amount of space recalls a similar technique used on the disc label◊ for I Might Be Wrong, the band's sole live album from 2001.
- New Sound Album: Retreated from the experimental sound they had been working with for more of a mainstream sound that initially didn't go over very well with the fans.
- Obsession Song: "All I Need".
- Once for Yes, Twice for No: In "Bodysnatchers;" it was one of the lines that got turned into a shirt:Blink your eyes
Once for yes
Two for no
- One-Word Title: "Bodysnatchers," "Nude," "Reckoner," and "Videotape."
- Shout-Out:You got a Cheshire Cat Grin
When Mephistopheles is just beneath
- Title Track: "Reckoner" is a subversion, but the album is named after a line in the song ("because we separate / like ripples on a blank shore / in rainbows").
- Uncommon Time: "15 Step" is in 5/4.