ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Early this morning, the British rock band Radiohead made its new album "In Rainbows" available for download on its Web site. That is the only place to get it, and buyers can pay whatever they think the album is worth.
Our critic Tom Moon downloaded the album not long after he woke up this morning. He's been listening ever since, and he has this review.
(Soundbite of music)
TOM MOON: Even without all the fanfare about download-only delivery, the release of Radiohead's "In Rainbows" is an event. Its new music from one of the most consistently creative rock band for the last decade.
(Soundbite of music)
MOON: On everything it has done since the landmark 1997 "OK Computer," the British band has challenged its listeners to think about rock music in more expansive terms. Sometimes using sample in beat boxes, it has cranked out rhythms that are light years from the typical rock backbeat, like this study in hiccupping agitation that begins the new album.
(Soundbite of song "15 Step")
Mr. THOM YORKE (Vocalist, Radiohead): (Singing) You used to be alright. What happened? Did the cat get your tongue? Did your string come undone? One by one.
MOON: At the same time, Radiohead music has serious layers of texture, unexpected chord changes, and a sense of orchestration that can sweep you up into its grandeur. Listen to the spectacular swirls of guitar dissonance that drive this song, which is called "Bodysnatchers."
(Soundbite of song "Bodysnatchers")
Mr. YORKE: (Singing) All the lies run around my face. All the lies run around my face. And for anyone else to see. And for anyone else to see. I'm alive.
MOON: Radiohead has been playing these songs live for the last few years as work's in progress. That's a different approach for the band, which has typically developed its new music in the studio.
Over the course of the last tour, some of these pieces underwent multiple revisions. Some became more focused. Actually, much of this record feels more streamlined than the last Radiohead's studio album "Hail to the Thief."
(Soundbite of song "Open Pick")
Mr. YORKE: (Singing) Just as you take my hand. Just as you write my number down. Just as the drinks arrive. Just as they play your favorite songs. As the magic disappears. No longer wind up like a spring. Before you had too much…
MOON: With a band like Radiohead, it's not always wise to trust the first impression. I downloaded this music at seven this morning. And I've heard it exactly three times. It's impossible to decide from that whether the album's a masterpiece. But I know this much. Not many bands make records that reveal themselves the more you listen to them. Radiohead has certainly done that with "In Rainbows." And that's not easy.
SIGEL: Radiohead's new album is called "In Rainbows." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.