In the Fall of 2007 I moved to Japan, to a southern seaside town that was slowing decaying due to population decline. The place smelled like fish, and was dark and cold at night. You could see the stars splayed overhead like a frosted blanket, and at night the whole place grew dark and quiet, with only the waves and the fighting cats making much noise. There was jungle overtaking the houses, and many old homes fallen into disrepair. There were monkeys and hawks and feral cats (some of which were eaten by the hawks), and spiders in neon orange and green.
The nearest native English speakers was an hour’s drive away, and man it was a lonely year of my life. I had a girlfriend off in the city and fell in love, but the 3-hour separation was a lot. At the time, I had this tiny 2-door Japanese stick-shift that I used to drive through the hills and mountains from my village up to the local city and back, and spent hours listening to the same old CDs left behind by my predecessor.
When I saw Radiohead had an album coming out, and that they were self-publishing and I could order from anywhere, I was ecstatic. Music was trickier to acquire in those days, especially in Japan where CDs cost double or triple what they did in the US. True, you could delve into the darker corners of the internet and torrent what you needed, but new music was sometimes tricky to find, and the chance of getting caught meant one risked the approbation of the local government and the board of education.
In Rainbows was downloadable after you purchased it, so I bought a copy and burned my own CD, which soon became my go-to album for driving up and down the lonely seacost, to Matsuyama in the North.Those riffs came to define that year of my life. And when my girlfriend and I broke up that winter, it became the soundtrack for the long nights that eventually turned into spring. Spring was good, and the summer after it even better.