Published Apr 20, 2020Ed O'Brien is no stranger to success. After all, the 52-year-old musician remains a key member of Radiohead — one of modern music's most influential and successful alternative rock bands. But on Earth, O'Brien's debut solo album released under the moniker EOB, he finds standalone success.
Inspired by his time spend in Brazil, in particular experiencing Carnival (which O'Brien called "one of those eureka musical moments"), Earth is an incredibly cohesive and mature debut. In keeping with its title, the album feels intensely organic — never once forced. All nine tracks reveal swaths of texture and sonic landscapes that unfold amid layered synth, soaring guitars, rattling percussion and O'Brien's unwavering vocals.
"Shangri-La" immediately sets the tone, conjuring the idea of earthly paradise set amidst plucky guitars and O'Brien's dreamy falsetto. While predominantly ethereal and inspired by the humanity that binds us all, the album also explores the darker elements of our time. "Bankers", for example, offers a fuelled criticism of modern capitalism and Wall Street corruption as O'Brien channels his inner Dave Gahan. Special mention should also be made to Laura Marling's vocals to end the album with the gentle acoustic lullaby that is "Cloak of the Night."
However, the album truly proves its worth with tracks "Brasil" and "Olympik". Spanning over eight minutes respectively, both are musical odysseys that ground Earth in some of the most beautiful instrumental arcs and transitions of 2020. They are uniquely transcendent and show off O'Brien's innovative nature and immense talent for composition.
Moving, emotional and richly textured, Earth is an impressive solo debut from O'Brien, and delivers one of this year's more fully-formed albums.