A Moon Shaped Pool is the 9th release by Art Rock/bit of everything rock band Radiohead. Eagerly awaited off the success off their last album in 2011, this album see’s their sound transitioning once again from the heavily electronic and looped King of Limbs to another unique, yet highly applicable sound. Radiohead have only musically and commercially grown with the release of every album for their varied and sometimes obscure methods of production, never sticking with one set of instruments; finding new instruments; arranging scores and even writing software for music production programs to achieve a specific sound. What you can expect to feel from this album is a brand new sound of familiar.
And what’s it like?
Familiar in the sense you can hear the music scoring and arrangement of Johnny Greenwood which has been on previous albums. Brand new because this album is majorly built around Greenwood’s work of writing Scores for a live Orchestra to perform. Acoustic instruments are contributed by Yorke, like the Guitar and Piano and when Colin Selway wasn’t on drums, him and other bandmates would be producing electronic drum patterns and picking Synths. What’s notable about this album is how diverse the songs are in structure, tempo and atmosphere.
The first track and single “Burn The Witch” is a heart starting repeating pattern from Greenwood’s Orchestra combined with electronic percussion and synthesisers. The liveliness of the instrumentation is calmly counterpointed by Yorke’s soft Falsetto voice. The lyrics potray a suggestive discontent of the process of obeying or conforming with the group, for fear of being alienated and persecuted: ‘Burn The Witch’. The second track and other single “Daydreaming” completely contrasts the lively and ‘musical social commentary’ feel of the first song with music and lyrics wrote on a more interpersonal subject, accompanied by soft instrumentation which gives a feel of reflection and reliving. It sounds like music you would hear when your life flashes right before your eyes just before you die, but in a prettily haunting way; it’s not a morbid song. It’s a song which to me see’s Thom Yorke reflecting on his life in a world of his own, sort of him being alone with his thoughts. Like he is daydreaming; or the life before your eyes thing (which is way more accurate, obviously). It sounds like a modern, haunting version of Moonlight Sonata. You wouldn’t play it a party.
You could play this album anywhere though. Due to its orientated base of classical music and due to our ears being so used to hearing Orchestras playing in the background of nearly every film and TV program we watch, you could imagine the songs off this album being played accompanying a film or a live performance, as well as being heard live in concert.
What are the album’s best songs?
Perhaps my negative criticism of this album lies in the fact that I find it easy to identify my favourite songs. Due to the musical and atmospheric diversity of each song, I don’t find myself appreciating all the vibrations I’m hearing from each song. But who would besides pro’s and try-hard Radiohead fans? The songs that are do like are good.
My two favourite songs would be the previously mentioned “Daydreaming” for the sheer amount of emotion it transmits to the listener, as well as the extremely personal lyrical and musical style of song, allowing it to be highly relatable to listeners. My second favourite would be “Decks Dark”. This song is a halfway point between the first two tracks in terms of tempo and energy. The welcoming of a more traditional line-up of rock band instruments like Acoustic Drums, Bass, Lead and Piano (I suppose) makes this song feel more like a rock song, rather than an alternative or “art” rock sound, but it still very soothing, with a solo on Piano backed by spacey effects of guitar which makes this song feel like a slightly psychedelic and almost trippy jam. A song you’d close your eyes to.
Other notable mentions are Identikit, Present Tense and Glass Eyes. If you’re a fan of classical music this song would appeal to you more than others. I’m not a fan of that but I am a big fan of this song. The guaranteed richness of the Orchestra makes for another percussion-less but powerful song.
Are there any music videos and/or audio?
- Burn The Witch
- Decks Dark
- Desert Island Disk
- Ful Stop
- Glass Eyes
- The Numbers
- Present Tense
- Tinker Taylor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief
- True Love Waits
What’s the final verdict?
At the end of the day it is all well and good praising diversity in an album, however it doesn’t escape the opinion that I don’t like every song. However, the songs I do like evoke such a spectrum of emotions that is signature of a Radiohead album. There is not a rushed or “written for the charts” song on there, which is a truly commendable achievement in this war on money making music; even if an extremely dividing opinion on favourite tracks is the casualty, but is that necessarily a bad thing?
Words by Patrick Ryan.