Produced by usual collaborator, Nigel Godrich, Thom Yorke’s latest solo release following “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” is in some capacity, breaking new ground for the artist. Though the record is not revolutionary and the composition is undoubtedly familiar, thematically and lyrically, Yorke is more honest than ever. Accompanied by a short film, ANIMA often flows like a soundtrack, transitioning from slow-burner to slow-burner. Thus, for many, the album might seem tiresome and self-indulgent, but once the listener immerses themselves within the anxious world of Thom Yorke, the album becomes an elaborate dreamscape.
Traffic, a highlight, opens the album with a synth-heavy track which hypnotizes the listener before plunging into an electrifying climax. At times, Yorke drowns in his experimentation as with the second track, “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain)” but mostly, the Radiohead frontman is on good form, redeeming himself in the excellent Twist. Here, over skittering beats and pulsating synths, Yorke’s voice floats effortlessly and beautifully. Lyrically, “Dawn Chorus” is a dizzyingly romantic song. Yorke ditches his usual falsetto here, instead choosing to speak directly with his audience. “Please let me know when you’ve had enough,” he demands of his partner. It is Yorke’s most poetic track thus far in his discography.
The album does have its weak spots. The aforementioned second track and the more upbeat but ultimately unfulfilling “I Am a Very Rude Person.” “Not The News” once again redeems faith in Yorke’s ability to create upbeat but disquieting songs. “The Axe” is another highlight, pointedly proclaiming, “I thought we had a deal” foreseeing a no-deal Brexit. Yorke’s politics are subtle but ever-present throughout. An atmosphere of anxiety and cynicism pervade the project. “Impossible Knots” further improves on the formula of “Not the News” leaving the audience with a sour taste and on the closer, “Runwayaway,” the eeriness remains.
Instrumentally, the album is lush, layered, and harrowing, inducing the general panic of the political moment and simultaneously capturing Yorke’s inner turmoil. There is, however, something left to be desired in the project. Though the tracks are impressive, they often lack the resonance of Yorke’s work with Radiohead. Yorke feels as though he is experimenting but never fully reaching his full potential in electronic music. We have seen him excel before, but if Yorke could maintain consistency, he may just create a masterpiece.