‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ reminds us that the world is a beautiful place


photo via wikipedia.org under Creative Commons license

Radiohead’s long-awaited ninth album, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool,’ is an ode to life and all that is beautiful.

No one knows how or why it happens, but every few years, the mythical gods of music descend from the heavens and offer us a taste of what it’s like to drink from the fountain of pure musical genius. When Radiohead releases new music, the entire world listens. In fact, there are two kinds of people in this world: people who unashamedly love Radiohead, and those who hate all that they embody but listen to them anyway. Their sheer musical brilliance makes them impossible to avoid no matter how hard one may try.

Those who are very dedicated fans of Radiohead know one fact about their catalog which remains true for each new album: it’s going to be drastically different from their last. No one expected that after the revolutionary OK Computer, an energetic and guitar-oriented album, that they would then come out with an album such as Kid A, in which there are virtually no guitars, only three years later.

In 2011, Radiohead came out with The King of Limbs, a jumble of ’70s dance beats and slow piano tracks. This was, of course, very different than their previous release In Rainbows, a slow and sensitive array of strings and delayed guitars with synths backing up very slow and melancholic vocals from Thom Yorke.

Ditching both of those styles, as expected, Radiohead have completely revolutionized their sound once again with their latest album A Moon Shaped Pool. Combining a collection of very old, previously unreleased songs with fresh and enticing creations, A Moon Shaped Pool is undoubtedly one of Radiohead’s most satisfyingly unique endeavours.

As Radiohead built up anticipation to the release by slowly deleting their Internet presence and mailing out flyers with cryptic messages around London, the world went silent and waited for their next move. On Monday, they released a surprise video of the first new single from the album entitled “Burn the Witch” to fairly positive acclaim. Several days later came “Daydreaming,” a song reminding us vaguely of the Amnesiac era crossed with King of Limbs accompanied by a brilliantly eccentric video directed by one of the all-time greats of cinema, Paul Thomas Anderson.


Read: PT Anderson and Jonny Greenwood collaborate for Junun

Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, and Philip Selway.
photo via wikipedia.org under Creative Commons license
Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, and Philip Selway.

Also on Thursday, the band mentioned their new album would be released online on Sunday, still not revealing what the name of the album is to be.

Now it’s here. After nearly three years of anticipation and countless instances of hope, the only band that ever needed to exist has blown us all away with yet another masterpiece album. An album which could only truly be released by Radiohead.

The first two tracks we already know: “Burn the Witch” and “Daydreaming.” Beginning with the third, “Decks Dark,” we are plunged into a pool of twinkles and sprinkles held down by a steady drum beat, featuring vocals similar to that of “Pyramid Song.” About a minute and a half into the song, intense operatic vocals begin in the back accompanied by a mildly distorted guitar in the background. A piano also subtly creeps into the mix and beautifully compliments Yorke’s voice.

The song mystifyingly transitions directly into an acoustic guitar and a steady electric bass drum in a track called “Desert Island Disk,” a song which has been floating around concerts for years and has now finally found a home. As the song progresses, we feel a very deep sense of vastness hidden behind the muffled sounds of a vibraphone synth and the depth of a white-noise synth.

The next is “Ful Stop,” a song which is more punk rock oriented than anything. Beginning with a slowed-down, heavy-metal drum beat and a dirty synth-bass, a sense of apprehensive anger is immediately looming. The next song on the album, “Glass Eyes,” features very sentimental and dark strings progressing slowly underneath a very spiralic piano track complimenting Yorke’s beautiful, imaginative vocals.

Another song which finally found its home on this album is the next song “Identikit.” The song literally sounds like it’s falling from the sky as Yorke sings “Broken hearts make it rain” over and over again. The song following is “The Numbers,” a song many fans might recognize under the name “Silent Spring” since this was one of the songs Yorke played at Pathway to Paris prior to the Climate Change conferences there late last year.

The song following, “The Present Tense,” is another song of similar origins, although this one kept its name from last December. Arguably the most melodic and melancholic song on the album, it is a beautiful compilation of sounds featuring a bass drum worthy of head-banging to slowly and acoustic guitars which sound like a cross between “Reckoner” and The Strokes’ song “Someday.”

The next song is one which is definitely not as tedious as its title is. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief” has some of the most complex and cinematic strings of the entire album, and is truly a majestic piece. The final song on the album is a picture-perfect piano rendition of a song every Radiohead fan has cried to at least once. “True Love Waits” was on the collector’s edition of Kid A and also the Live EP I Might Be Wrong; however, the song has morphed into something truly extraordinary this time around. Yorke’s cracked vocals and carefully chaotic piano-playing is absolutely devastating, making it an ideal song with which to end an album such as this.

This mind-blowing masterpiece is available for download now on iTunes and Google Play. Additionally, it is available on Apple Music and Tidal, and is set to be on Spotify soon. A physical copy of the album is available for pre-order now here and will be out June 17.

Rating: 9.5/10

Essential Tracks: “The Present Tense” “Glass Eyes” “Decks Dark” “True Love Waits”