Thursday, May 19, 2011

"The King Of Limbs" VINYL to CD comparison

Comparison, well...not in the strictest of nerd-aphile specifications. Look, I don't have the time nor the will to do an A/B comparison... I know, as countless others can attest to, that VINYL has it's own sound. It ALWAYS sounds different than a CD, and most of the time any given song sounds BETTER than it's CD counterpart.

Besides, Radiohead's new album The King Of Limbs (TKOL), Special Edition "Newspaper" release, in and of itself warrants some lauding.

The day Radiohead announced their new LP, I without hesitation dropped the $53 for this special edition. As soon as it arrived yesterday, I knew it was money well spent...even if just from a collectors perspective.

The whole shebang was wrapped in "oxo-degradable" plastic printed w/ TKOL cover art. I carefully opened it, retrieving it's contents:
(L toR: Newspaper, CD copy, 2x 10" Clear Vinyl LP, sheet of perforated "tabs")

After looking through what I think is an ingenious packaging idea, and laughing about the perforated tabs included (next time I cook up a batch of Lysergic acid diethylamide, i'll be sure to use these,) I got right down to listening to the beautiful clear vinyl 10" disks...

First of all, let me say that I had been listening to "Kid A" on 10" 33rpm recently, and I have always been a little unimpressed w/ a few of the songs on Vinyl. IMO, "How to Disappear Completely" and "National Anthem" have suffered a little on my particular pressing (possibly due to the questionable release on the smaller 10" 33 rpm format.)

For instance "How to Disappear Completely" doesn't have the same wide-open hi-end airyness as the CD version, due to Vinyl's inherent physical inability to handle high frequencies (8kHz +) at the same amplitude (volume) as a CD...not too mention the strings at the end of the song probably ate up a considerable amount of "groove space" to keep them epic sounding, so something had to give (see This Article for an explanation) . So I ask, why even do a 10" version, go 12"... just sayin' ;)

That being said, TKOL being on 10" gave me slight pause, but it was cut at 45rpm and the sides (4) only have 2 songs each, so I cleared my head and eagerly put the needle to the groove. The first few seconds of the opening "twelve finger piano riff" on TKOL's "Bloom" had me glued to my speakers. When the bass jumped in, the sweet fret sound resonated from the vinyl...the tape cued percussion was punctuating and punchy!...and MAN...all the layers of this song had a new face on the Vinyl release. Good job mates.

The biggest surprise to me was the 3rd track (first on side B) "Little by Little"...the CD version didn't really catch my ear has a groove, it's a cool song...but something didn't really get me going. WELL, the Vinyl version puts this song in a WHOLE NEW LIGHT. Their is some CRAZY GOOD separation of all the songs little elements, making it a very interesting composition, not the mushy warble I first heard on my complimentary FLAC download.

Throughout this record, the Vinyl version blew the CD away. And though I have no quibbles about said CD version, hearing what at first impression was a very digital and electronic album turn into a fleshy organic affair, was quite the treat. The imagery of laptop editing and sample tweaking over groovy rhythms has given way to imagery of tape splicing, vintage analog Jamaican dub-ery, and Thom Yorke as Roger Waters smoking a cigarette behind a big clanky synth with patch cords.

The sweet vinyl coupled with the sweet art(ifacts) made this completely worth the price tag. Go snatch up a vinyl copy for yourself.