After a brief return to earth to deliver the tart, focused In Rainbows, Radiohead drift back into the ether with The King of Limbs. Like In Rainbows before it, the actuality of The King of Limbs is purposefully somewhat obscured by the hullabaloo surrounding the album's surprise release – announced for a Saturday release on a Monday, shifted to a Friday – and in the case of KOL, such clamor is needed. Wispy and ephemeral, shimmering skin draped over the barest of bones, The King of Limbs doesn’t deliberately lack a solid foundation, songwriting traded for sound construction. Masters of mood that they are, Radiohead digitally weave stuttering, glitchy loops of drums and guitars with real instruments, Thom Yorke’s mournful moan and keening falsetto acting as a binding agent, creating an alluringly dour atmosphere.
This is the sound of Radiohead doing what they do, doing it very well, doing it without flash or pretension, gently easing from the role of pioneers to craftsmen.
The album was announced on Radiohead's website on 14 February 2011, five days before release. The name of the album possibly refers to an oak tree in Wiltshire's Savernake Forest, thought to be 1,000 years old. The tree is a pollarded oak, referring to an ancient technique for harvesting timber for fencing and firewood. Though it does not feature on maps, the tree is said to be 3 miles (4.8 km) from Tottenham Court House, where Radiohead recorded part of their previous album In Rainbows. On 18 February, Radiohead's official blog published the first song from the album, "Lotus Flower", with an accompanying music video, followed by a post announcing the album was released.