Radiohead returns

‘Pool’ adds to band’s legacy


After five years, we’ve come full circle and once again I have the experience of listening to a new Radiohead album. “A Moon Shaped Pool” is the follow up to 2011’s “The King of Limbs,” an album that left a sour taste in my mouth as it felt short and ultimately un- cathartic.

With that in mind, I was wary in approaching this album, fearing that Radiohead was in creative decline. I couldn’t be any more satisfied in being proved wrong; in fact this may be their best release since “In Rainbows, possibly topping that as well.

The opening track “Burn the Witch”, which was released a few days prior to the album’s release, is a promising start as we are reintroduced to the sorrowful and evocative vocals of Thom Yorke as he hauntingly croons about the hysteria associated with social media “witch hunts.” Instrumentally, the arrangements here are pieced together artfully as the strings are played over a gliding and understated percussion section.

Next we have the track “Daydreaming” which was also released prior to the album’s release as a single. We are greeted with soft piano melodies while ambient soundscapes float weightless in the background. Thom Yorke sounds utterly pained as cries out about the disconnection from reality that occurs when one prefers to live within the sanctuary of their own dreams.

These opening songs set the tone for the rest of the album, what we have here is slow, spacey and fairly minimalist. The song structures are linear but progresses in a manner that can tug the heartstrings and draw emotion from the listener.

Those not accustomed to the later portion of Radiohead’s discography may find this structure to be off putting as some songs border on being tedious and underwhelming such as “Tinker Tailor Soldier…” which meanders for about five minutes while cloudy keys drift about. The song leaves more to be desired after it un-impressingly fizzles out.

The later moments on this album are satisfying though. The acoustic melodies on Present tense are beautiful and filled with life in an otherwise dreary and melancholy song.

“Numbers” takes the form of an almost protest-esque song as the band serves a refreshing slice of folk rock. The songwriting here almost evokes the spirit of early Neil. Young with its tone regarding the people and their relationship with the planet

The lyrics on this album are a major strong point.  The extraterrestrial imagery on “Decks Dark” is an interesting motif to introspect on the nature of humanity. “True Love Waits”, is one of the most heart wrenching songs on the album, describing a relationship in which Thom feels he must compromise and suppress himself in order to feel reciprocated love. It’s a depressing finale to a beautiful and well-constructed album that featured some of the band’s best songwriting to date.

While this album is a must listen for fans of the band, I would be cautious in recommending this to someone unfamiliar or new to Radiohead’s music. The slow paced and ambient nature of this album may be unrewarding for the casual listener but those who know what to expect will undoubtedly enjoy this album for the ethereal moments that shine through even the most bleak moments on this record.