Last week, Radiohead released a new album, entitled In Rainbows. While Radiohead fans were understandably excited by the band's first new album since 2003's Hail to the Thief, the rest of the online world was interested in the release's format: while a boxed set (with 2 CDs and 2 vinyl records) will be available in December for about $80, the album was also available for download last Wednesday for whatever price the customer wished to pay for it.
Despite this, there was a substantial amount of griping from fans about the bitrate of the MP3 files and the quality of the music itself. While I have complained about bitrates and lossy audio compression in the past, I am past my file format fascist days. While I would have loved for the album's download to be encoded in a higher bitrate (I personally like 192 Kbps), 160 is better than the standard bitrate of 128 Kbps.
By comparison, a 160 Kbps MP3 is similar in quality to a 128 Kbps AAC files like those sold in the iTunes Music Store. Unlikes in the iTMS, the "choose your own price" model allows you to decide how much you think the album is worth. I ended up paying about $7 for it, which I think was reasonable.
But while one could know the bitrate and format of the music before purchasing the album, it was impossible to know whether the album would match up to Radiohead's previous endeavors. Forming an unbiased opinion at this point in time is a bit difficult, as I have only been listening to the music for a few days, and I have high expectations for an album from Radiohead. With those caveats, I think In Rainbows is good, but not one of those great albums that defines a decade - like OK Computer, for instance. It is still worth both paying for and listening to.
My favorite songs:
I don't want to be your friend
I just want to be your lover
When I'm at the pearly gates
This will be on my videotape, my videotape