The members of Radiohead are masters of the unconventional album release. In 2007, for In Rainbows, they were the first major act to utilize the pay-what-you-want download model that has since been adopted by many. Their next album, The King of Limbs, was kept a secret until just a few days before its release. Both of these albums were released straight to the public, free from the constraints of any major record label.
Radiohead’s newest attempt to release music in an original way is probably the most unique. They are attempting to build hype for their new album by subtracting their presence on the web.
On the afternoon of Sunday, May 1, their official website went blank, along with their Twitter and Facebook pages. This disappearing act came one day after members of the band’s mailing list were sent leaflets that read, “Sing a song of sixpence that goes/Burn the Witch/We know where you live.”
So what does this tell us about the forthcoming album? Close to nothing. It is rumored that the album will come out sometime in the next week, but no one has any clue how it will be released or what the official title, album artwork, or track list is.
But the logistics of the new album are secondary to the actual music. As Radiohead’s eclectic discography proves, it’s anyone’s guess what the music will sound like. The lead singer has played a few new songs acoustically at performances, but it’s unclear how they will be sonically presented on the album – if they are even on it at all.
Through calculated ambiguity and unmatched originality, Radiohead has kept fans engaged for over two decades. The music industry is as artificial as it has ever been and Radiohead has somehow found a way to completely hold on to authenticity as artists. Everyone should be excited about this, even if they aren’t engaged by the music.
Radiohead is playing a limited amount of U.S. shows this summer in Chicago, New York and LA. Regardless of how the new album is received, one can expect a passionate and memorable set.