To some Radiohead fans, the release of a new album is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure. In their never ending quest for innovation and perpetual evolution, Radiohead never provide an album that one expects. As a result, they often disappoint as much as they please, with many pleading for a return to the glory days of ‘Paranoid Android’ and the sound of loud electric guitars. However, it is my delight to announce that I believe that Radiohead’s new album; A Moon Shaped Pool, may be their finest work in over a decade.
‘Burn the Witch’ opens the record with a burst of pace and confidence. Jonny Greenwood’s unrelenting, staccato string arrangement pricks the ear with a sharp and satisfying quality, while Yorke delivers a soaring, crystalline falsetto. “Burn the witch, we know where you live” he cries in an ironically victorious tone. This short burst of energy is brought to an abrupt halt by it’s successor ‘Daydreaming’, which is nothing short of stunning; its cinematic enormity utterly inescapable. Within, Yorke gives, perhaps, his most ghostly performance to date, while Greenwood’s cascading strings hark the tense melancholy of his soundtrack to There will be Blood. The album then refrains with ‘Decks Dark’, a moody piano and drum driven track, somewhat reminiscent of the Kid A/ Amnesiac era, followed by the beautiful ‘Desert Island Desk’; conjuring memories of the romantic English Folk of Nick Drake. Pace re-emerges with another of the album’s highlights; ‘Ful Stop’, a brooding electronica-epic. Celestial Brian Eno shimmers fly above the track’s ominous bassline, as it crescendos into a whirlpool of Yorke’s ghostly cries and frantic jazz drum grooves.
The second half of the album begins by rekindling the sublime beauty of ‘Daydreaming’, with ‘Glass Eyes’. Under Greenwood’s most gorgeous string arrangement on the album, Yorke delivers an exceptionally understated performance, in what is the album’s romantic gem. ‘Identikit’, a wonderfully eccentric foray then barges away the calm. An obtuse beat underpins Yorke’s acrobatic melodies; “When I see you messing me around, I don’t want to know”, sings Thom in what is one of the album’s rare ‘pop moments’, that meanders in the mind long after first listen. Grandeur is then restored by ‘The Numbers’, Greenwood’s strings evoking memories of a George Martin Beatles arrangement, while slow-burner “Present Tense”, refrains the album before it’s intense climax. ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ begins by evoking the dark electronics of Kid A, before Greenwood’s strings once again propel the track into the stratosphere, creating the illusion that the album is about to come to an almighty close. Instead, Radiohead choose to conclude this journey with ‘True Love Waits’, a track of day dream melancholy that fades the album into a gentle sleep.
While by no means their most accessible or consistent body of work, A Moon Shaped Pool has a truly classic persona. With extreme sonic detail, sublime songwriting and Greenwood contributing some of the finest Orchestral arrangements in the history of popular music, this is a record that equals In Rainbows as Radiohead’s most outstanding achievement since Kid A.
A Moon Shaped Pool is available for download now, and will be available on CD/LP from June 17th via XL Recordings.