Now here’s how you cover a song. British folk-soul singer Lianne La Havas has released a fresh version of “Weird Fishes,” one of the best songs on In Rainbows, one of Radiohead’s best albums. It’s taken from La Havas’ upcoming self-titled album, her first in five years.
La Havas has maintained the eerie spirit of the Radiohead original while still completely transforming “Weird Fishes.” After feinting at the uptempo beat that usually carries the song along, the drummer switches into something slower and groovier. The tapestry of guitar arpeggios that gave the original track its “Arpeggi” subtitle has been replaced by a cloud of keyboard chords. At the song’s turning point, when the bottom falls out, the entire band disappears, leaving only crystalline a cappella harmonies. It all builds to a tremendous finale.
La Havas says the cover was key to shaping the rest of the new album:
This song is very close to my heart, and in the story of the record, the lyrics express exactly where I was. At the same time, it felt very appropriate to use it as a kind of test song to record with my live band, to see if we’d work as well in the studio as we do onstage—I’d always wanted to play live in the studio like in the ’70s. Everything felt right that day. I knew this is my direction; this is my album; this is my story.
Thom Yorke’s lyrics suggest finding a way out, and he’s used the imagery of the bottom of the sea and the unusual creatures that you might find there. For me, the deep means the unknown, when you get out of something so familiar. It can be scary, but he also says, “I hit bottom and escape.”
“Weird Fishes” is the fourth single La Havas has shared from the album following “Can’t Fight,” “Paper Thin,” and “Bittersweet.” Catch up on all of those songs below, starting with the Radiohead cover, because damn.
Lianne La Havas is out 7/17 on Nonesuch. Pre-order it here.