MP3 Review: Radiohead

In Rainbows
Music ••••½ MP3 Sound •••½

And the answer is: $11.47. That's how much I paid to download Radiohead's In Rainbows directly from on the day of release, October 10.

I placed my request on October 1, the first day that orders were being taken (and I was able to avoid the ensuing site slowdowns and jamups). My view (at present) is that $10 is a fair price to pay for an album - so I guess I'm in line with the iTunes pricing model. But with the fluctuating conversion rate that currently favors the pound over the dollar, I wound up paying somewhat more than that, as 5 pounds + the 45p "transaction fee" = $11.47 in U.S. buckage.

And yes, since I'm also both a vinyl junkie and a completist, I'm biting the 40-pound bullet (including the transaction fee, that translates to, gulp, an additional $85.76) so that, circa December 3, I'll have the "Discbox" version of the album. It includes a CD with bonus tracks, two LPs, artwork, and an(other) album download - the last of which I obviously already have. (Geez, guys, couldn't I have gotten a discount or some other cool extra instead of the album-download redux? Guess this ultimately falls into the category of Early Adopter Beware: See What Happened with the First iPhone Buyers.)

Much e-chatter and ink splatter has been bandied about regarding Radiohead's decision to forgo the standard delivery methodology for presenting new music to the public. But hey, if you're a traditionalist and want to hold out for the "official" CD release on January 1 (for info on that, click here), more power to you. Me, I didn't want to wait, so I paid the freight (though it appears that a lot of other folks didn't; see the Radiohead entry here).

So I've now lived with In Rainbows for almost 2 months in a variety of forms and settings - that is, I've absorbed the 160-kbps download on my computer (an admittedly lower rate than that of a traditional CD, but higher than a standard iTunes track), loaded the files onto my 160-gig iPod, burned a CD for in-car listening, and spun it on my home system. And my initial impression holds true: It's good. It's damn good. (Insert collective sigh of relief here: Whewwwww.) The thumbnail view is that it's instantly accessible - closer to the prophetic sheen of OK Computer than the outré extremis of Kid A, with enough texture and layering to make it worth recurrent revisitation.