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A MOON SHAPED POOL

Radiohead

Crossover Prog


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Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool album cover
3.97 | 273 ratings | 8 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2016

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Burn The Witch (3:40)
2. Daydreaming (6:24)
3. Decks Dark (4:41)
4. Desert Island Disk (3:44)
5. Ful Stop (6:07)
6. Glass Eyes (2:52)
7. Identikit (4:26)
8. The Numbers (5:45)
9. Present Tense (5:06)
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief (5:03)
11. True Love Waits (4:43)

Total Time 52:31

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Thom Yorke / vocals, guitar
- Ed O'Brien / guitar, backing vocals
- Jonny Greenwood / guitar, keyboards
- Colin Greenwood / bass
- Phil Selway / drums, percussion

With:
- Clive Deamer / drums (5)
- London Contemporary Orchestra & Choir / strings & female chorus vocals
- Hugh Brunt / conductor

Note: Band's instrumentation not fully confirmed at this moment

Releases information

Artwork: Stanley Donwood and Thom Yorke

2xLP XL Recordings ‎- XLLP790 (2016, Europe)

CD XL Recordings ‎- XLCD790 (2016, Europe)

FLAC lossless digital download ‎- XLDA790 (2016, www)

Thanks to LearsFool for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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RADIOHEAD A Moon Shaped Pool ratings distribution


3.97
(273 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
30%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
36%
Good, but non-essential (18%)
18%
Collectors/fans only (9%)
9%
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)
6%

RADIOHEAD A Moon Shaped Pool reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by LearsFool
COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars There are several things that are very special about very eclectic artists and bands, but what sticks out to me is the unpredictability that results, and how that effects the lead up to a new album. When you look at a band like Radiohead, who make a habit out of defying expectation, trying new things, digging up old songs, and being cryptic as all heck heading towards a release, this is particularly acute. You're left wondering and wondering and hoping and scraping through muck with your bare hands to figure out anything you can about what Oxford's finest's next adventure has in store.

Then comes actually listening to their shiny new sound.

To be so crass as to compare this to older albums, this is mostly something of a mashup of "Amnesiac" and "In Rainbows", taking electronics and orchestration familiar to the former, with a bit of the roulette style of tracklisting, and crossing it with the accessibility, flow, and sonic-smoothie-esque flavours of the latter. Of course, you'll be able to trace where "The King of Limbs"'s electronics led to this - and now we see a confirmed pattern of comparative experimentation and comparative accessibility between every two 21st century head unit albums - and the closing studio version of "True Love Waits" (!) has electronics that instead buck the album's holding pattern and remind of "Kid A", but the first comparison should give you an idea of what to expect.

Side note from TLW: this has the highest turnover rate of any album of theirs in terms of older songs finally getting finished: "Burn The Witch", "Ful Stop", "Identikit", "Present Tense", even TLW, which did have an official release as a live cut a decade ago. This alone makes "A Moon Shaped Pool" a necessary listen. Go team!

More specifically, the tracks sound as follows... "Burn The Witch" is an outlier, a tense, string driven, practically chamber piece, with lyrics suggesting government round ups and McCarthyism. "Daydreaming" and "Decks Dark" announce the main electronic styles of the record, and flow into each other well. The former, up to its positioning, distantly recalls "Pyramid Song". The tracks debuted by Thom in Paris last year, "Silent Spring" and "Desert Island Disk", come to us as acoustic guitar driven songs that are surrounded by more electronics and complimentary strings, with the former now called "The Numbers" - "The Present Tense" also ended up with a similar treatment. "Identikit"'s prog-friendly structure has been perfected, and it is the other driving part of the album. "Tinker Tailor" features an electronic rhythm. "True Love Waits" comes off as a more natural "Motion Picture Soundtrack". The remainder compare to the mid-album tracks from "In Rainbows" while sticking to the flavours of the rest of this one.

And it's one of the best albums of the year. But what else did you expect from Radiohead?

Review by rogerthat
COLLABORATOR Crossover Team
5 stars Thank God Radiohead tracks are on the shorter side! The other day I sat down in my suburban train and basked in the sounds of Daydreaming followed by Decks Dark (both tracks from the new album A Moon Shaped Pool). So lost was I in the music that had Decks Dark not wound down in time, I would have missed my change station. Aw, you thought I was going to say they can't make epics and all that ;)

And the above sums up the experience of listening to A Moon Shaped Pool. It is perhaps the least innovative Radiohead album from Bends and onwards (which is NOT to say it lacks innovation) and yet it is also like no other Radiohead album. After all this time, Thom Yorke & Co (or should I say Johnny Greenwood & Co) segue from experimentation to emotion and have just made the most lovely, organic and heartfelt album of recent times. There is less (next to no) frenzy in this album but tons and tons of involvement. Radiohead have arrived.

Let's just take the two tracks I mentioned at the outset. Daydreaming starts with a calm, soft piano figure on loop and proceeds into Yorke's characteristic undecipherable wailing. But at the end of each vocal fragment is a Tony Banks-like progression. Now where did that come from? This theme endures throughout the album (also noticeable in the little choir-keyboard interlude in Identikit for example). From nowhere, very 70s sounding passages of music blend seamlessly into Radiohead's characteristic....well, what is it, alt rock, electronica, prog rock ;) ?

On this album, more than ever, Radiohead's music defies categorisation. At first brush, it appears to lean more towards rock and yet the construction of tracks like Daydreaming or Tinker Tailor is more, well, progressive and avoids the usual verse-chorus pattern. And yet, the album sounds the most organic, the most, well, graceful that a Radiohead album could ever. Phil Selway in particular handles it all with a very light touch but the orchestration too is majestic, flowing, delicate (yes, all these things at the same time) in ways you've never heard on a Radiohead album. Radiohead may not have broken into new frontiers genre wise on this album but their very approach to making music appears to have changed.

How is this explained, especially when you consider that a good proportion of the tracks have already been performed live for years? The answer is Johnny Greenwood. I am led to believe that Greenwood's work in scoring for films carried over into this album and if that is so, then I do see the hand of a master orchestrator. The songs transform from their embryonic versions owing to the way they are built up, the way they are embellished with a tapestry of intricate figures, loops and just plain sound at times. And so it is that we land up with this wonderful blend of strings arrangements, electronic music, 70s throwbacks and, finally, just good old Radiohead guitar.

Which brings me to Decks Dark. A song so vulnerable in its despairing solitude it brought me to the verge of tears (and on checking out conversations on the internet, I found I was not alone). Anyway...it starts with yet another piece of soft, calm piano that underpins Yorke's plaintive vocals. Which in turn lead into a very gloomy, wailing choir that accompanies the comparatively more animated chorus. And then, in the end, almost without warning, we are led into a sharp, though still slow, guitar riff. But wait...there's actually piano overlaying the guitar....

Describing the multitude of twists and turns in this albums and the little surprises it keeps springing on me as I listen more and more would take eons. Plus, doing so would only spoil the fun for you the listener. Suffice it to say that this is an album that feels crafted rather than put together and an album where creative choices seem to flow from the emotion sought to be expressed rather than creativity for the sake of creativity itself.

Radiohead remain to this day a contentious addition to this website. A Moon Shaped Pool is the closest they have got to making an album that may perhaps be found by old school progheads to be prog (though I wouldn't hold my breath). Progressive not for time sig complexity but progressive simply because mainstream non progressive rock has no use for so much intricacy and depth of musicianship. It sounds an odd thing to say for an album that I described as the least innovative Radiohead album from Bends onwards, but A Moon Shaped Pool will stand the test of time better than its illustrious predecessors OK Computer and Kid A and is, in my admittedly premature estimation, a greater achievement than those celebrated albums. One of the most thoughtful and intelligent bands of our times have connected with their soul and in the process given us one for the ages. Five stars.

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Emerging after a five-year period of post-King of Limbs dormancy, Radiohead evidently spent the downtime shifting gear yet again. Just as they'd shifted from grouchy, misanthropic indie rock to esoteric prog-tinged indie guitar symphonies between The Bends and OK Computer, and then shifted again to abrasive electronica for Kid A and the subsequent releases, this time around they've managed to pull off another surprise by shifting gear to their gentlest sound ever, with a sort of Radiohead-ified modernised Scott Walker narrative on the opening Burn the Witch setting the scene for what's going down from there on.

This progressive chamber pop sound presents a new musical frontier for Radiohead to occupy, and they manage to do it perfectly; it's perhaps the most accessible thing they've done since OK Computer, though equally I can see how they needed to go through all the electronic hinterlands they have explored since then in order to arrive at this sound.

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams
4 stars A UK outfit RADIOHEAD have changed their expression and impression every time they released an album, but they have kept upon their identified anacatesthesia and pessimism via production and voices mainly by Thom YORKE for over thirty years (or at least since their first album "Pablo Honey" was released in 1993). Their 9th album "A Moon Shaped Pool" could be felt not purely pop nor forcibly complicated but familiarity with anti-pop intensity. Every fan (like me!) who has been following them since their debut album launched would have looked forward to their creation, and he/she would not be betrayed also by this one I suggest. Various sound appearances can be heard here and there, which should drive us crazy - kinda killer one indeed. For them (especially Thom himself), either what is acoustic or how electronic ought to be should not be cared, and it's natural they represent what boils up in their inner space. Let me say this phenomenon might be their charm eternally.

Anyway we would not have come across such a combo who create "monotonous pop / rock" so frequently. Their mysterious monotonous melody lines have obvious auditory extension and variation. No multitempo nor tone change can be heard but enthusiasm and powerful intention for production always addict the audience perfectly. The first shot "Burn The Witch" or "Desert Island Disk" sounds hypnotically acoustic with definite comfort. The comfort might grow up along with Thom's flat voices I imagine. "Daydreaming" (as the title says) or "Glass Eyes" (as if fragile glass would break away) throws us into a sensitive dream in the afternoon, filled with their electronic agents. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief", I'm sure this be their masterpiece in this album, reminds me of their innovative, energetic and simultaneously delicate creativity that could be heard in "The Bends" or "OK Computer" a long while ago.

Cheers for their stubborn (!) music expression strategies and incredible taste kept for over thirty years. You're artists of genius.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team
4 stars I am not a Radiohead fan. I have never been able to pick up on the supposed genius and innovation that the band has bestowed upon the fortunate world. But they have had a few songs that at least have got me interested enough to listen to their music. "Subterranean Homesick Alien," "Optimistic," "Everything in Its Right Place," and "Arpeggios/Weird Fishes" are all great songs. Still, seeing the positive reviews pouring in when A Moon Shaped Pool was released got me interested enough to buy the album. It's taken me some time to get to know and judge the album. A Moon Shaped Pool is definitely an appropriate title--incorporating two references that I find quite appropriate: the all-pervasive murky, underwater rendering of many of the instruments in the way that Harold Budd and Brian Eno once pioneered on albums like Discreet Music, Plateaux of Mirror, The Pearl, and others as well as the pseudonym chosen by Budd and Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie for their THE MOON AND THE MELODIES collaboration.

1. "Burn The Witch" (3:40) a perky, almost frenetic and driving beat beneath the vocals here makes this one engaging and yet almost annoying. (8/10)

2. "Daydreaming" (6:24) is a gentle song with lots of headphones-pleasing subtleties and pitch-bent sounds flitting in and out of the soundscape. I really enjoy this one. Another 'under water'-like listening experience. One of my top three songs from the album. (9/10)

3. "Decks Dark" (4:41) weird treated piano sound manipulations with distant drum machine open this song before Thom and real-time piano bring in the melody and lyric. At 1:25 the band joins in--as do some eery background female vocals and electric guitar--which almost drown Thom's vocal out! (Interesting engineering choice!) The song may want to sound dark and eery but the lasting effect is once again to make the listener feel as though they're minds are being messed with--as if our reality is being distorted. Interesting. (8/10)

4. "Desert Island Disk" (3:44) acoustic guitar played with finger pads opens this song. More eery background (left channel) heavily treated and pitchbent sounds play--(with equally spacey distorted guitar appearing intermittently in the right channel). All the while Thom Yorke sings dreamily over the top. An acid/psychedelic folk song? (8/10)

5. "Ful Stop" (6:07) opens with a two-note bass line, fast bass drum beat, and heavily treated snare beat swimming within the horn-like synths floating around beneath left and above right. Thom's vocals are a little higher pitched and sound a little more affected than usual here. Then at 3:25 he begins repeating in a tow falsettos "truth will mess you up" and "all the good times, one over the other in layered channels. Interestingly effective--much in the same way I find "Arpeggio/Weird Fishes" so hypnotic. (9/10)

6. "Glass Eyes" (2:52) opens with more heavily, heavily treated piano accompanied beautifully by the strings of the London Contemporary Orchestra. Thom's sedate vocal is present very front and forward, even a little below us, as he sings as if the long night of drinking has left him alone and philosophical. One of my top three--probably my favorite song on the album. (10/10)

7. "Identikit" (4:26) opens with one of the band's sparse and seemingly simple rhythms, bass, drums and guitar, before layers of Thom Yorke voices fill much of the soundscape--as if different parts of Thom are singing each in different dimensions. Then at 2:05 the voices unify into one direct voice front and center singing about broken hearts making it rain--which is then repeated by the female choir of the London Contemporary Orchestra. The multi-dimensional voices return as reggae-like bass and lead guitar take increasing prominence to the end. Pretty cool song--worth multiple visits. (8/10)

8. "The Numbers" (5:45) opens like a combination of 1960's opening to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and the morph into a CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG psych folk anthem. Could be a great song from Sweden's THE AMAZING. Acoustic guitar, piano, treated piano, electric guitar, busy bass, and background snare-dominated drums populate the soundscape as Thom sings within the psychedelia. Very cool sound. At 3:33 orchestra strings join in providing a very effective BEATLES-like presence. Finale with choir and strings supporting Thom and the pianos. Another tope three song for me. (I'm just a sucker for that CSN&Y sound.) (9/10)

9. "Present Tense" (5:06) opens with a basso nova-like rhythm and Thom's "ooo"s. An interesting choice of music to accompany Thom's plaintive, despondent vocal about the overabundance of human-inflicted violence on our planet (or is it about the breakup of a relationship of his?). Okay song. Probably my least favorite on the album. (7/10)

10. "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief" (5:03) opens with old time tape his over cheesy sounding drum-machine beats and syncopated old-time electric piano chord hits. Thom soon enters and sings in his higher register voice (which, I just noticed, is quite similar to that of SIGUR RÓS's Jónsi). A lot of orchestral strings and female choir effects are added to the usual Radiohead electronically manipulated sounds making this an interesting representation of the human conundrum of living in our computer age. The song could have been further or better developed. (7/10)

11. "True Love Waits" (4:43) two and then three and four Harold Budd-like treated piano tracks support another higher register, but more plaintive Thom Yorke vocal. The deviation from single time signature to more polyrhythmic effect in the third minute gives the song a bit more interest--but almost to the distraction of the vocal. Plus, I'm not sure why, but the sound engineering has (I'm assuming) allowed some scratchy tape static and hiss to be present in the soundscape--which I happen to find a bit distracting and annoying. Otherwise, this might be considered a pretty ingenious little song. (9/10)

All in all I think the experimentation with sound engineering got away from Thom and the band a little on this one-- some of the "old" effects like hiss, static, scratches, whirl and wobble on this album are a bit annoying and distracting. Digital CD sound is not 'supposed' to sound like this! I'm totally clueless as to why a band would want this on their album, but it's here. The songs are mostly pleasant enough--and the incorporation of the London Contemporary Orchestra and Female Choir are powerful and quite welcome. And I do like and appreciate the sonic engineering the band incorporate into their soundscapes, but, it can get to be a bit much. Still, this is a very good album from a very good band. I'll recommend this one with a solid four stars.

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Yup, sounds like Radiohead. In making this album, Radiohead dropped the charade of "we don't want to make full length albums anymore" (which I still somewhat feel like was an excuse for not bothering to fully finish King of Limbs more than anything), and the resulting product sounds like the proper successor that In Rainbows (now 9 years old) never really had. This is both an earnest compliment and a slightly backhanded one; it's nice to hear a collection of polished and meticulously crafted material that shows Radiohead playing to its considerable strengths, on the one hand, but it's kinda somewhat fascinating to me, on the other hand, to hear them continue to cling so closely to their preferred approaches in style and mood, on the other. As with In Rainbows, I don't consider this devotion to what clearly works as anything near a fatal flaw, but as somebody who hovers in the range of liking and respecting the band without loving it, I find myself once again slightly disappointed by this feeling of coasting.

One particular aspect that this album has in common with In Rainbows is that it contains recordings of material that the band had written many years earlier but had never recorded to their satisfaction. The biggest news along these lines concerns the closing "True Love Waits," which had been sparsely played live since its creation in 1995 (and which had previously closed I Might Be Wrong as a ballad for solo acoustic guitar) and finally gets its long-awaited studio release here. This time around, guitar is replaced by overdubbed pianos each playing a simple phrase (but layered and staggered in a way to make the arrangement sound much thicker and more intricate than would any one part), and the end result is quite different from the acoustic version but equally affecting. Honestly, I wouldn't know that this song had any sort of "long-awaited legend" status associated with it if I hadn't gone out of my way to read this, and I don't see this as one of the main highlights of the album, but it's still rather lovely. The leftover that interests me most is the one that starts off the album; "Burn the Witch" originated in the Kid A sessions, and the band had dabbled with it in subsequent sessions, but it wasn't until now that they settled on the right way to approach it. Unlike other typical cases where the band had made use of strings, where they were a decorative flourish (albeit often an important one), this song centers around strings, both in terms of carrying the underpinning harmonies (courtesy of the low strings) and in terms of providing a percussive element (instead of bowing the notes they are struck with the bow, and this incessant striking creates a jittery feel not unlike that of the guitars in early Talking Heads or something like that). The third leftover is "Present Tense," which the band wrote in 2008 but didn't make the cut when the band got around to recording King of Limbs; it's an ok song, featuring acoustic guitars over a Latin beat and ghostly harmonies, and while it probably wouldn't have fit well with the other numbers on King of Limbs, that wouldn't necessarily have been a bad thing.

Of the remaining eight tracks, two clearly stand out from the pack for me. The first is "Daydreaming," which marks the closest the band has come to ambient music since "Treefingers" 16 years earlier; 6+ minutes might seem like much for a track that's basically nothing but sparse singing over a simple piano line with bits of various additional effects (like the eerily just-out-of-tune bits of synth playing something similar to the main piano line), but the time flies by, and when the angry strings swoop in at about the five minute mark, the effect of it is terrific. I should note that I'm not inclined to make a huge deal out of the warped and reversed vocals tucked near the end, with Yorke making various allusions to the end of his long-term relationship; I genuinely thought the first half dozen times I listened that the last 30 seconds was supposed to be snoring and then cellos imitating snoring, and that's kinda the way I prefer it. The other one that wows me is "Ful Stop," which the band had first played on the King of Limbs tour but that (according to my understanding) hadn't been written in time for possible inclusion on that album. It's an incredible exercise in layering arrangements gradually, starting off as a creepy bassline over a pulsating electronic drum part, then adding an incredibly atmospheric slow synth line and bits of production curiosities. By the middle of the song, it becomes something resembling a top-notch Hail to the Thief guitar-heavy number (with all of the previous elements still going strong), and it's in this song especially that I find myself understanding why so many people gush over this album.

Beyond the previously mentioned highlights, the only one that really jumps out at me is the gloriously titled "Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief," which starts off sounding exactly like a high-quality leftover from Kid A/Amensiac but eventually takes on some aspects in the piano and especially the strings that give it a personality distinct from the typical material from those sessions. The other five tracks are ... fine. It would be a lie for me to say that they all sound alike ("Desert Island Disk" starts off with acoustic guitar while the others don't, and "Glass Eyes" has a false start that leads into a lovely sounding bit of treated piano), and I know that they each have their own interesting details when I bother to pay attention closely, but I have listened to this album a very reasonable amount of times and I could not tell you which track was which (if you played me a 15 second clip from the middle of any of them) even with my family's life on the line. I enjoy every single one of them when on, and when the album is off the only lasting impression that any of them leaves with me is "yup, that was a track from Radiohead's 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool alright, at least I think it was, wait that wasn't from In Rainbows or King of Limbs right ok just checking."

Truth be told, after three listens, I thought about giving this a lower grade, but on the fourth listen "Daydreaming" and "Ful Stop" emerged from the morass as unmistakable highlights (when I already liked the opening "Burn the Witch" a lot, almost certainly because it was first), and they helped me make the case to myself to bump this up. For a serious Radiohead fan, this will probably seem like another message from the gods, and there's no reason for them not to own and like this. For the more casual Radiohead fans among us, this is still a delight, and it's a relief to hear that King of Limbs was just a bump and not a pivot towards clear decline, but it's not a critical part of their career, "True Love Waits" notwithstanding.

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Man is this one a grower. I went from not liking it after the first listen and mumbling to myself "this is generic crap", to feeling like a light went on after 3 listens, to being totally won over after 5 spins. I'm one of the few who loved the previous album "King Of Limbs" and was hoping for more of the same, so there's that. This album is full of depth and atmosphere with plenty of electronics, piano and strings.

"Burn The Witch" has this urgent rhythm of drums and strings as the vocals join in. The strings become more prominent before 2 minutes then fade back again. This sounds pretty cool and intense. "Daydreaming" is a top three tune for me. Man is this a sad and emotional track with piano and atmosphere early on before these quivering vocals arrive before 1 1/2 minutes. Check out the thick atmosphere after 4 minutes.

"Decks Dark" has a beat with some fast paced piano melodies as the vocals join in. It's fuller before 1 1/2 minutes when the vocals stop but they return quickly with more energy than before. So much atmosphere here. It settles after 2 1/2 minutes and this sounds really good. Love the bass. "Desert Island Disk" is led by acoustic guitar and a beat with reserved vocals. One of the songs I just couldn't get into. "Ful Stop" is my favourite song and it's because of that intensity and dark mood. The electronics and beat builds along with eerie sounds that come and go. This is head bobbing music and it's also quite spacey. Vocals before 2 minutes and they will come and go. Great track!

"Glass Eyes" features piano, strings and atmosphere as the reserved vocals join in almost speaking the words. "Identikit" is catchy with distant sounding vocals. I like this. Check out the guitar before 4 minutes! "The Numbers" is my final top three. Strummed guitar, piano, drums and more as the vocals join in. Nice bass before 3 minutes along with those soaring vocals. Check out the strings after 3 1/2 minutes. I love this stuff! We get a release of tension late to end it.

"Present Tense" reminds me of RADIOHEAD of old and the backing vocals later on add a lot in my opinion. "Tinker Tailor Soldier..." is relaxed with vocals, strings, atmosphere and a beat standing out. Sweeping strings around 3 minutes as Thom stops singing. This continues to the end and I like the electronics late. "True Love Waits" is one heck of a ballad I'll say that. A sad and simple piece with melancholic vocals, piano and strings standing out. This is so sad yet so meaningful.

I was reminded of the seventies several times when listening to this album and not necessarily Prog from the seventies either, but those moments really add a lot to my enjoyment. It's grown to an easy 4 stars and if it continues to grow I'll be back to adjust my rating. I'm really impressed.

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5 stars I'm having a difficult time thinking of any other album this year that was as heavily anticipated as A Moon Shaped Pool, apart from maybe David Bowie's Blackstar. This release comes after five years of studio silence between Radiohead albums, the longest gap between releases to date. It also contain ... (read more)

Report this review (#1561576) | Posted by CassandraLeo | Thursday, May 12, 2016 | Review Permanlink

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