You’d be hard-pressed to find a musician who is as celebrated as much as Thom Yorke. Yorke, along with Radiohead, has gone through many phases, all equally successful.
While they’ve been active since 1985, Radiohead burst onto the scene with 1997’s OK Computer. Armed with the distinctly warm crunch of the MXR M-104 Distortion+, Yorke has been a highly influential presence in the earliest and most distortion-heavy days of grunge. Most artists would have been happy with the monumental success that OK Computer had, but Yorke isn’t like most artists. Instead of capitalising on the success of their previous album, the band went a different route with their fourth album, Kid A.
The crowd-pleasing cacophony of distorted guitars was replaced with a Moog MiniMoog, a glaring tonal shift from OK Computer’s heavy yet catchy material. This was all done on purpose to change their sound, it was an attempt to do something completely different. And that messaging is consistent with Yorke, as he has also continuously dabbled in different projects throughout the years. To get a better grasp of this, we’ve put together a list of Yorke’s best side projects and collaborations. Read on for a run-through of the artist’s projects through the years!
First up on the list is Yorke’s participation in Todd Haynes’ 1998 film Velvet Goldmine, which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1998 iteration of the Cannes Film Festival. The film, whose events were patterned after David Bowie’s musical personas, featured a band called the Venus in Furs (a reference to the Velvet Underground song). The band covers Roxy’s 2HB and Ladytron, featuring what may just be the best vocal work of Yorke’s career. While Yorke played it pretty straight with his rendition, there’s no doubting the brilliance of the covers.
This next one is another example of Yorke’s long tradition with collaborating with the great auteurs of our time. ANIMA is Yorke’s newest solo album that was released along with a film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. As an album, ANIMA is a confluence of electronic music filtered through the unique mind of Thom Yorke. It is an in-depth exploration of musical soundscapes grounded by catchy beats, allowing even the most conservative listeners a chance to dive into it head-first. This project becomes even better within the context of the accompanying film as Yorke and Anderson are truly a match made in heaven.
This collaboration is special for two reasons. At the time, Under the Sun was Mark Pritchard’s first solo album in 5 years — a triumphant comeback for the famed producer. The other reason? Well, if you like Yorke’s electronic stuff then you’re in for a treat as York lends his vocals on the track Beautiful People. The song is one of the most wistful of Yorke’s many collaborations, as the song channels a tenderness that has been sparse in Yorke’s earlier work. While similar to his electronic-heavy songs, Beautiful People is the breath of fresh air that we didn’t know we needed.
Dancer in the Dark
Lastly, this collaboration may be one of the greatest in the history of modern music. Yorke teams up with Icelandic singer Björk for two singles in the soundtrack for the film Dancer in the Dark. Björk wrote and starred in the film that was directed by Lars Von Trier. And while both songs are great, the brilliance of the track I’ve Seen It All is evident. Rarely do we hear Yorke this stripped down. No hints of Radiohead or Björk’s signature experimentation, this was truly a visceral experience that these two great modern artists have gifted to the world.