Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool Review

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With a five year absence, Radiohead have returned with their ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool. They do this from a position of almost understated legendary status around the world and great authority in British music. Over two decades of high quality music is what has cemented this reputation and the sheer volume of hype that surrounds them. They are marking their return in typically mysterious circumstances with social media blackouts and odd cards delivered to those on their mail list. These cards had the lyrics of their new single ‘Burn The Witch’ embossed on them. The key question is, can they continue to match that reputation and live up to the hype in 2016?

The lyrics of ‘Burn The Witch’ that were embossed on those cards when put to the music, evoke a greeter unsettling feel. The instrumentation is primarily made of a sharp string staccato with rumbling and sweeping strings and electronica moving purposefully beneath it. The song is surprisingly melodic and engaging than it might be on first listen as what seems something as an anti-melody from Yorke contrasts with the dramatic and increasingly frantic instrumentation around him. An intriguing and well developed sound from a vastly experienced group. ‘Daydreaming’ is a track of graceful transitions and melodies that has that underlying energy and tentative feel to it. This comes from a stretched bass line and a generation of whirring synths beneath the sweeping piano chords and string sections. Thom Yorkes solemn and quivering vocal only adds to this tension. The samples of wails and voices in line with sharper and more sudden strings only go on to deepen the sense of unease whilst stretching the the beautiful arrangement of it all. ‘Ful Stop’ features the same rumbling sounds and siren-like rhythms of The Knife, yet these are linked via whirring synth chords. From these minor foundations comes the quieter and colder vocals from Yorke that isolate vocals from the rest of the track seamlessly.

‘Present Tense’ gives off warmer feels with shuffling percussion and lightly oscillating acoustic rhythms. Behind this arrangement come ringing guitars and echoed backing vocals behind the stable and more reassuring lead vocals of Thom Yorke. ‘Identikit’ features clean cut riffs and rhythms ahead of sharp and prominent bass lines and the vocals match the rest of the instrumentation for perfect clarity. The song expands its sound with lightly distorted lead guitar parts for an intricate and detailed rock track. ‘True Love Waits’ is a swooning and wistful ballad with it being led by Yorke’s sweeping and encompassing vocal. ‘Decks Dark’ offer up steady and smooth electronica with the considered introduction of additional elements from bass line, choirs and distorted riffs. The album perhaps has too many acoustic tracks with little direction, but these still can be appreciated as atmospheric and graceful tracks. Beyond these, we have beautiful and atmospherically dynamic album that accentuates and emboldens subtlety and sharpens typically loose and expansive sounds. It is testament to the skill and experience of the group to achieve so much with so little or to focus so much into something so simple. One of the highlights of the year and a match for the hype.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool = 8.5/10

 

 

 

 

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