Thom Yorke’s debut solo record was secretly recorded while Radiohead was on tour, so as to avoid any rumours that the band was breaking up (they’re not). Yorke’s The Eraser recalls his band’s older material, specifically sounding like demos from 2001’s beat-heavy Amnesiac. On Amnesiac, Yorke could rely on his band mates to support his vocals with beautiful and sudden instrumentation.
At first I thought that Eraser’s Achilles’ heel would be that missing instrumentation, but surprisingly, Yorke, who composed the album on his laptop, comes off sounding full and even warm. This fullness and warmth is also due to producer Nigel Godrich’s smart arrangements that somehow bring together dark electronic beats, processed synthesizer, and eerie wordless backing vocals. Godrich also tones down the reverb on Yorke’s outstanding vocals, and by doing so he brings Yorke’s voice and lyrics to the forefront, which have never been sharper.
Current favourites include the opening title track, “Black Swan” and “Harrowdown Hill” — all are haunting but they represent more modern song structures as opposed to the more abstract tracks.
The Eraser is one of the more challenging albums of the year and an excellent predecessor to Radiohead’s next album. (XL Recordings)
Rating: 3.5 Out Of 5 Stars