Radiohead's Discography Ranked

Throughout the years Radiohead has consistently put out fantastic albums and rarely stopped evolving and changing their sound. For those unaware (really!?): Radiohead is an English band that bridges rock and electronic music. Their main singer Thom Yorke is known for his incredible range and solo projects between the band’s larger releases. Jonny Greenwood is the main guitarist along with Ed O’Brien and his brother Colin Greenwood on bass guitar. Greenwood has had a pretty significant solo career between Radiohead’s releases when he scored a large number of films such as Phantom Thread, The Master, and There Will Be Blood among many others. Their last main member Philip Selway who specialized in drums was also joined by the band's long-time collaborator Nigel Godrich who assisted the band with their iconic electronic sound and made their visions a reality. Their music has influenced countless artists and some of their albums are highly regarded as some of the best music released in the past twenty-nine years. 

Radiohead is my favorite band of all time – the band has completely shifted my taste in music and how I listen to music in general. Radiohead has released nine studio albums along with a large number of side projects and EPs. Ranking all of their albums is something that isn’t easy to do: they have never released an uninteresting album. Every album is important in their journey.

 #9 The King Of Limbs

The King of Limbs is a completely new step in Radiohead's saga and is the weakest album in their discography. The main issue with The King Of Limbs resides in the repetitiveness of tracks and what sounds like undeveloped ideas in Godrich’s production. The band mainly experimented with using turntables and drifting away from the iconic electric guitars and acoustic sounds that defined them. The opener to the album, “Bloom,”  is a repetitive song that builds upon the listener's assumption that some sort of payoff to this repetitiveness is soon to come; however, nothing happens. Most songs on this album struggle with this same issue. “Good Morning Mr. Magpie'' features an extremely annoying guitar loop playing throughout the whole song and usually results in a skip from me to avoid a headache. Thom Yorke’s vocals on this album are also disappointing; on Radiohead’s other projects, Yorke’s fantastic range and diverse sound stick out as a highlight for their music, yet here his range is lacking and he sounds bored. “Codex” is the standout track here as Godrich’s electronic and acoustic production compliments Yorke’s melancholic singing with a gorgeous horn section and amazing strings. Overall The King Of Limbs has poor structure and a lack of any discernible message or meaning behind the noisiness of it all. 

#8 Pablo Honey

Radiohead’s debut LP is an extremely generic rock album that sounds like a lot of average Stroke’s instrumentals thrown over Yorke’s developing vocal talent. It’s better than The King Of Limbs because it felt like Radiohead was simply throwing things at the wall just to see if they would stick. And other than “Creep,” they didn’t stick.“Creep” sounds so different from the rest of this album, and as much as the fanbase surrounding Radiohead despises this song and writes it off as “the mainstream one,” it's still incredibly enjoyable. There isn’t much to say about their debut as it is a pretty boring, safe rock album.

#7 Amnesiac

To me, Amnesiac is lovely solely based on the fact that it feels like Kid A and a lot of the songs sound like Kid A tracks. To be fair, they sound like throw-away Kid A tracks but there are some incredible-sounding songs on this project. “Pyramid Song,” “Life In A Glasshouse,” and “You And Whose Army?” stand out as the go-to tracks for it and perfectly execute some fantastic experimental electronic production and vocal effects that Godrich has become known for. Specifically the experimental voice effects and slow guitars of “You And Whose Army?” push Radiohead’s unique sound further. Not to mention the switch-up at the end of the track that is carried by Selway’s punchy, hard-hitting drums that feel deserved after the buildup. Overall Amnesiac is not a large enough distinction from Kid A to stand out and falls short with out-of-place sounds and uninviting guitars on songs like “I Might Be Wrong.”

#6 The Bends

The band‘s second studio album is a direct improvement over all of Pablo Honey while still sticking to the things that made Pablo Honey a memorable debut. There are so many incredible rock songs on this album like “Just,” “The Bends,” and “Bones.” However, it’s not all rock: the massively popular melancholic environmentally aware “Fake Plastic Trees” is an incredible statement on the state of the environment. “Fake plastic trees” has a fantastic message while also having incredibly serene and beautiful production brought to life by Godrich throughout. This album set the tone for the rest of what Radiohead would be and gave a wonderful glimpse into the rest of the band’s career. While being a more rock-focused project it still has the little hints at what Radiohead was leaning more towards. It’s a melancholic band’s stepping stone. The Bends provides a fantastic blend of abrasive rock music and melancholic acoustic songs that would define the band in the coming years.

#5 Hail To The Thief

By far Radiohead’s most politically charged album just so happens to be a bridge between electronic and rock music. With barely any flaws, Hail To The Thief speaks on the stolen 2000 election and the following War on Terror. Throughout this album there are many electronic songs like “The Gloaming” and “Sit Down. Stand Up” which feature heavy experimentation with synths and altering Selway’s drums. However, songs “Sail To The Moon” and “Where I End and You Begin” uphold the traditional sounding Radiohead that is filled with electric guitars and classic drums. This album contains countless shifts and turns throughout that help add to the unpredictable nature of the ever-changing sound. The beginning track, “2 + 2 = 5,” is an upfront rock ballad that punches the listener in the face with its overblown guitars brought to life by Greenwood and O’Brien as well as unexprected drums Selway uses to practically drown Yorke out by the end. This shifts quickly to a more melancholic introspective vocal performance in “We Suck Young Blood” and then back again to abrasive rock with “Myxomatosis,” a loud electronic rock song with blaring synths. This inconsistency keeps the listener on edge throughout the entire experience.

#4 A Moon Shaped Pool 

It would be an understatement to say this album is emotional. If you took a pool of tears and threw it over emotionally driven guitars and electronic sounds, then you have A Moon Shaped Pool. “Burn The Witch,” the first song on the album, is filled with bizarre-sounding strings that act as a stab to the listener's ears with the energy of life. After that, you descend into the album where you are never hit with that fast energy again as it all melts into darkness, darkness filled with extremely depressing themes of unfulfilling love and a wasted life. Songs like “True Love Waits” and “Glass Eyes” carry extremely well-polished vocals from Yorke and fantastic slow production by Godrich which give us a glimpse into Yorke’s unwell mental state at the time. Recorded after lead vocalist Thom Yorke divorced his wife of twenty-three years, he questions if the time spent loving something that ended was worth it and whether or not he ever felt love in the first place. The lyrics from the album create a dark and dreary attitude for the entire runtime. It feels like a farewell to one of the greatest bands of all time. It includes songs the band has teased and only played at live shows for a long time. “True Love Waits,” played at many shows around 1998 and 1999, was never released until this album. Songs like “Burn The Witch” and “Present Tense” were teased and worked on for years upon years before finding a home on A Moon Shaped Pool. I hope A Moon Shaped Pool isn’t Radiohead’s last; however if it is, it feels right and deserved. The album is incredible and is guaranteed to ruin your happy day if that’s something you're looking to do.

#3 Kid A

Radiohead’s Kid A is the greatest left turn in music history. After releasing the critically acclaimed OK Computer, the band had toured for nearly two years. Thom Yorke felt stuck and thought about breaking up the band multiple times and quitting music altogether. It was a hard time. Everyone was in a dark place after feeling like they would never top their third studio album. The critical acclaim began to take its toll. Later, the band started recording Kid A using electronic guitars and synths intentionally making it sound nothing like OK Computer or anything the band had made before. By the end of it, Kid A was created. An album almost as highly regarded as OK Computer and considered one of the greatest musical endeavors of all time. Kid A features the strangest works of the band to date with songs such as “Everything In Its Right Place” which uses clipping of voice samples and bits and pieces of distorted lyrics behind a heavy synth which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album. The entire album relies on the new and weird production Godrich gives and the heavy electronic instruments Greenwood helps bring to life. The title track “Kid A” has completely unintelligible lyrics which serve to convey the bizarre and sometimes unhinged feeling of the rest of the album. Kid A is also Radiohead’s toughest project to decipher lyrically. With bizarre lyrics like “Yesterday, I woke up sucking a lemon” on “Everything In Its Right Place” and the repetition of “Dinosaurs roaming the earth” on “Optimistic.” Instead of hindering the album, the lyrics serve to transport the listener into a diverse soundscape of sometimes uncomfortable sounds. Yorke lives up to his incredible performances on previous albums and always matches the zany production by Godrich. Kid A is the album that reignited Radiohead’s fire to make fantastic music and the band would be lost without the strangely beautiful masterpiece that is Kid A.

#2 OK Computer

As previously mentioned OK Computer is the band’s highest-rated album and sits at number forty-two on Rolling Stone’s five-hundred greatest albums of all-time list. These insanely high ratings are well deserved. The album has only aged better as time passes. OK Computer tackles themes of entrapment to technology and social skills devolving into letting something speak for you. The interlude “Fitter Happier'' helps expand on this message with a robot listing an ideal life seemingly through technology and becoming a mindless machine. The current circumstances of our world and the increased reliance on technology make OK Computer more relevant now than ever. The highlight of the album, “Exit Music (For A Film),” which originally was meant to be used in Romeo + Juliet, portrays a couple wanting to leave the technology-reliant society behind and become something of their own. Other songs like “No Surprises” add to the themes of a mindless society with lyrics like “No alarms and no surprises.” It isn’t only the message that is relevant in OK Computer as the entire album’s sound was completely ahead of its time. The bizarre electric guitars and synths used on “Paranoid Android” and “Climbing Up the Walls” were unique to OK Computer. OK Computer is a fantastic album that holds incredible rock, electronic, and acoustic sounds throughout. On top of the already incredible sound of the album, the lyrical genius of Thom Yorke helps further push the mood of the album and is one of his best performances on any Radiohead album to date.

#1 In Rainbows

My first introduction to Radiohead also happens to be my favorite. In Rainbows is Radiohead’s most consistently breathtaking album. Thom Yorke gives his life and soul into his performances on this album with his genuinely otherworldly range on songs like “Nude” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place.” Radiohead is a band that always creates a cohesive mood with each of their albums and In Rainbows’ mood is one that is extremely dense and melancholic while also never failing to wow the listener with unexpected switch-ups and some of the most unforgettable production the band has received from Godrich. In Rainbows is what I recommend to anyone trying to get into Radiohead as it shows their range and breathtaking sound while also being completely listenable and simple throughout. The first track “15 Step'' instantly stands out as a masterpiece of mixing and using diverse instruments to set the tone for the rest of the incredibly vast soundscape of the album. Yorke gives the most interesting and involved performance he’s ever had on an album. He sounds so interested in the music he is performing and adds a completely new unhinged side of his voice that can’t be found anywhere else in Radiohead’s discography. Songs like “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” feature Yorke’s perfect skill of building up his voice to eventually arrive at pure blissful insanity. His consistently impressive vocals lead you through the thick atmosphere and breathtaking ambiance throughout the entire LP. This album is incredibly important to me and changed the way I viewed music entirely. It made me realize the lengths some artists will go to to keep the listener invested and interested in what comes next. Every song bridges perfectly into one another and before you know it you’ve finished the entire album and are about to hit the replay button. The progression of the instruments in all the songs is addicting as almost every song has a payoff. For example, the abrasive almost metal electric guitars O’Brien, and Colin use on “Bodysnatchers” devolve into an ethereal-sounding reverb-filled electric guitar that Greenwood handles expertly compliment another one of Yorke’s fantastically unpredictable vocal switch-ups. In Rainbows is my favorite album of all time and I thought I would have more to say about it but the album completely overwhelms me and I should let the music speak for itself. I hope to never leave the incredibly dense world packed into the forty-two-minute, thirty-eight-second journey that is In Rainbows.