Track of the Day: 'Daydreaming'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

When Radiohead set out to disappear completely last weekend, deleting every post from their Twitter and Facebook accounts, they left their YouTube page untouched. Probably smart: “Lotus Flower,” a single from the band’s last album, 2011’s The King of Limbs, has wracked up 36 million views.

The video for “Burn the Witch,” the single that Radiohead dropped on Monday, is already doing numbers. “Daydreaming” may do even better. The video, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and posted today, captures the bleak unease of the song exactly:

The video follows pale king Thom Yorke as he walks through a series of inter-connected hallways, corridors, and tunnels. He appears to be lost but not aimless, the world around him oblivious to his existence—an anxiety particular to Radiohead’s catalog. He passes through one door after another: from kitchen to hospital to prison to library and other magically linked spaces. “Dreamers, they never learn/ They never learn,” Yorke sings.

The psychic distress mounts as the song builds, until in the end Yorke passes through a utility stairwell door to a snowy landscape. He trudges through the drift until he finds what he was looking for (maybe?): a cave carved out of the ice, a fire burning inside the cave. The sounds that finish the song are too strange to describe, but Genius says that it’s York chanting “Evol ym dnouf ev’I”—I’ve found my love, backwards and all chopped and screwed.

This isn’t PTA’s first collaboration with Radiohead: Jonny Greenwood, the group’s mop-headed multi-instrumentalist, has composed the soundtracks for several of the director’s films, including There Will Be Blood and Inherent Vice. Last year, Anderson released Junun, a rockumentary that followed Greenwood to India, where he recorded an album of the same name with Israeli composer Shy Ben Tzur, producer Nigel Godrich, and an ensemble called Rajasthan Express.

More videos may be on the way: Radiohead’s latest and as-yet-untitled album comes out on Sunday.

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