On his third solo album ANIMA, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke continues to glide through a dystopian universe with the use of glitchy electronics and watertight production. It is a broad spectrum of sound, vivid imagination and a harrowing reality of a society in turmoil; all forming together to create the best solo project of Yorke’s career.
We need little to no introduction to the vastly wild nature of Thom Yorke’s psyche at this stage, he has spent the last 25 years broadcasting his deepest and darkest fears on a musical level; but something feels a little different now.
Harrowing terror and the element of doomsday being upon us has been common practice in Yorke’s back catalogue, whether that be with Radiohead or as a solo artist; but his newest effort ANIMA grips this mantle extra tight and demands to be heard. It commands your attention with such ferocity and anguish, but not in a harsh-on-the-ears alt-rock style that we heard on perhaps a 2+2=5 or even on a gut-wrenching piano ballad like Pyramid Song; what we get from ANIMA is lo-fi music fit to put you in a trance.
The relentless dubbed repetition of the song title in the background of Twist, the pulsing synths on Traffic, the distorted whirring sounds on Not The News; this album is truly his boldest venture yet. If you were expecting guitars at this stage then you’ll be disappointed once more, but then again if that’s still your expectancy then you’re about a decade too late.
There is a huge focus on the topic of dreams within this album, something Yorke recently said to be an “obsession” of his; and the general atmosphere surrounding ANIMA is very dreamy and alternate-reality. It is the idea that dreams give you an escape route to think and behave however you please, like you are controlling a simulated version of yourself and instructing them to act in ways you daren’t in reality. The cohesion of the project further fuels this narrative as it seamlessly glues together through technical dynamisms and intense subject matter.
“I thought we had a deal” sings Yorke on The Axe, perhaps the most lyrically jarring song on the album, as he strains and stresses about isolation and the realisation of how damaging “goddamn machinery” can be to our lives. The words Thom Yorke uses throughout the album are that extra bit more poignant and punchy, using oblique references in ways that only he can manage to not make sound ridiculous. His comparison of political leaders to “humans the size of rats” and suggesting for us to “take it out with the trash” is both captivating and impactful.
Where ANIMA succeeds in comparison to The Eraser and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is it’s overwhelming capacity of disposition. It is composed in a way so eclectic and chilling but does so in ways that make it polished and refined, rather than a self-indulgent fever dream. From the mystique filled inter-dimensional chaos of the opener Traffic, to the reassuring but still weary reflection time of the finale Runwayaway; you can’t help but be drawn into ANIMA’s exuberant fantasy. It is as universally factual of society as it is an enterprising glance into purgatory. We’ve already called Thom Yorke a genius enough times, but when something like this comes along it’s the ideal excuse to reinforce that status; he’s truly a one of a kind.