Album Review: Radiohead’s “A Moon Shaped Pool”

It has been five years since Radiohead last released an album—2011’s “The King of Limbs”—and during that time, fans have been restless. It was rumored that a new release would be soon, and after a few days of incredibly planned and intriguing publicity, “A Moon Shaped Pool” was here.

The album—their ninth—displays a more intimate and mellow side of the band. Despite this fact, there are certainly beautifully done builds and swells to moments of controlled chaos.
“A Moon Shaped Pool” also has a somewhat timeless feel to it, partially due to the age of some of the songs. While the entire album contains all new releases, several of the songs have been played live previously and reworked for the album—including the final track, “True Love Waits,” which debuted in 1995. Prior to the album’s release, fans have long-awaited official releases of these songs, but it was not until “A Moon Shaped Pool” that the band felt the recordings met personal expectations.

The aspect that made me keep coming back to the album many times was just how good it sounds. Bizarrely enough, I have not written a lot about this aspect of music recently.

Sometimes it can be easy to say “the music sounds good” or “the music makes me feel good” and leave it that, hence the reason I like to delve into why it makes the listener feel good—or other emotions—and focus on the power the music can have on the listener. But when I finished this album, I knew I had to mainly share how good it sounds, specifically its production.

There is never a dull moment in “A Moon Shaped Pool.” By use of warm, ethereal synths, orchestral and choral arrangements by guitarist Jonny Greenwood and heavy use of the studio as an instrument, the album kept me highly engaged—more so than I typically am with longer albums during their first listen. Some parts are disorienting and beautiful—lyrical electronics panning through my ears, sung sighs harmonized with sweeps from strings. Other parts groove hard and build in intensity gradually, the full sound of the chorus in contrast with the laidback beat only to simmer to a different groove. Regardless of what is going on, each sound can be heard clearly—no matter how big or how little—and correspondingly adds to the overall essence of the album.

“A Moon Shaped Pool,” with all of its surprises and heart-wrenching lyrics and arrangements, definitely fulfilled my desire and expectations for a new Radiohead album. I had no doubt their music would fare well no matter what they decided to release, but I am overly happy to have an album that gives me chills at many points and can just as easily cause me to smile over how incredible it sounds—even when listening in my room by myself.

Favorite Tracks: “Burn the Witch,” “Daydreaming,” “Decks Dark,” “Ful Stop,” “Identikit” and “The Numbers.” Those are my favorites, but I highly suggest listening to the whole album in order in one sitting.