19. Thom Yorke, Suspiria (Music From the Luca Guadagnino Film) (XL Recordings)
This was a case where an artistic project I was initially sceptical about surprised me a great deal, on two levels. As a longtime admirer of Dario Argento’s giallo classic Suspiria and a fervent opponent of Hollywood “reboots”, I was initially appalled by news of the updated version of the horror classic. It didn’t impress me very much, either, that Thom Yorke was tapped as composer of the movie’s score. I like Radiohead, but each member works best as one fifth of that unit: in other words, too much Thom Yorke becomes unbearable to me. Philip Sherburne put it best when he described him as a “sensitive possessor of a falsetto and a perpetual melancholy that lingers like a head cold he can’t quite shake.” Consequently, Yorke’s past solo work has bored me to tears. Skip to late November 2018, when Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria floored me with its hypnotic blend of dread, dancing, and gore (Dakota Johnson can actually act!); at the heart of this bewitching film is Yorke’s constant score, which beautifully echoes this haunting, dreamlike story. He actually sounds liberated as a songwriter, dipping into different styles (ambient, electronic, krautrock, classical) to create a hybrid that sounds as distinct as the movie looks. As cool as his recurring piano theme is (echoing Goblin’s iconic score for the original) the track “Volk” is the real revelation, where a meditative piano line is jostled back and forth by atonal synth notes that pull and pull, creating the kind of tension the film’s key scene demands. Like Guadagnino’s film, Yorke pays homage to the original and at the same time creates something completely his own. It’s a marvel.