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Radiohead's puzzling 2011

MARCHING TO THEIR OWN BEAT: Leave it to Radiohead to continually flout music biz conventions in their post-major label existence. Earlier this year, the band followed up 2007’s “pay what you like” landmark In Rainbows with The King of Limbs download, its eight-song length puzzling many fans, but soon afterward separately released the two-track digital single “Supercollider”/”The Butcher,” neither of which had appeared on the album. Around the same time, BBC and Palladia aired the rousing in-studio performance Live From the Basement: The King of Limbs, followed in the fall by several TV appearances, including a memorable performance and interview on The Colbert Report. Finally, in mid-December, when hardly anyone was paying attention, they stealth-released their two most irresistible tracks of the year: the anthemic “The Daily Mail,” which evokes both “Hey Jude” and “A Day in the Life,” and the mesmerizing polyrhythmic groover “Staircase.” That brought Radiohead’s total 2011 output to 12 audio tracks spanning 57 minutes—all of which would’ve blown people away had it comprised The King of Limbs in the first place, as if inviting fans to assemble their own versions of the expanded album. We’re left with the questions, why did they do that, and what’s next? We have no answers, but it’s cool to see a high-profile band like Radiohead play with formulas and expectations as well as sounds. (1/4a)

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