Performed by lead singer Thom Yorke with the late British trad jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton and his band.

Beginning with a brief atmospheric loop and clanging church-like bells, the song quickly morphs into a funereal new orleans jazz style number by a horn section including a clarinet, a trumpet and a trombone. The song is also available with a slightly extended introduction as a b-side to the Knives Out single. This version lacks the opening sound effect and instead features a trumpet solo introduction from Lyttelton that is edited out in the album version.

'Life in a Glasshouse' was initially written for acoustic guitar by Thom Yorke. A fragment of this version dating back to 1997 can be heard in the Meeting People Is Easy documentary, as played in a live sound check. While recording Amnesiac, band members had the idea of enlisting Lyttelton to move the song in a different direction, and wrote to him asking if they could collaborate. Lyttelton listened to one of his grandchildren's copies of the band's OK Computer and agreed. The song was apparently recorded in late 2000, after the release of Kid A, while other tracks on Amnesiac were recorded during the same sessions that produced Kid A.

The song also appeared in a scene of the 2006 film Children of Men.