“A Moon Shaped Pool”
Radiohead is one of those bands that defies all expectations. They have been surprising and shocking fans for over 20 years with both their constantly evolving sound and their tendency to throw convention out the window.
After achieving commercial pop success with their radio hit “Creep” in 1993, they turned away from creating mainstream music sounds and progressively got further and further from the norm, carving out masterpieces of creativity and passion. Albums like “OK Computer” and “Hail to the Thief” shattered expectations and helped launch Radiohead to super-stardom, all while being shunned by mainstream radio.
They’ve now released their 9th studio album entitled “A Moon Shaped Pool”. It continues their latest trend of slower, more ambient songs carried by Thom Yorke’s etheric vocals and driven by electronic beats from a variety of sounds. Tinkling pianos and acoustic guitars are found more than electric guitars.
It opens up with the best track, “Burn the Witch”. They released a really cool and somewhat creepy music video with it, shot with a very retro “Davey and Goliath” type animation. The combination of children’s show imagery with the haunting sound of the chorus and high strangeness in the content achieves a very poignant effect.
The rest of the album gets pretty laid back after that. “Daydreaming” is a beautiful song featuring soothing piano arpeggios, strings with some delay effects, and Thom Yorke doing what his does best, lulling you with the emotions in his voice and his thoughtful lyrics.
I was happy to find a couple of older songs that have never been recorded in a studio album before. “Identikit” and “True Love Waits” have been played live for years and sound great with the studio polish. The songs are brimming with feeling despite the slower tempo and sparse arrangements.
Breaking up the slower tunes are a handful of more jarring numbers, sounding like something out of a futuristic scene with questionable environments. They like to use some noise and discordant elements, serving as contrast to make the bright songs seem so much brighter.
This isn’t the kind of album that is going to convert you to a Radiohead fan if you’ve never listened to them before. It seems like a more artistic statement. They’ve left the music formulas behind long ago, in their ancient history. But if you’re a fan of their more recent work, you’re bound to enjoy this mellow, strange trip through the mind of Thom Yorke and his talented mates.
Tom Matthew, Two Ton Music