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Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool CD (album) cover

A MOON SHAPED POOL

Radiohead

 

Crossover Prog

3.90 | 365 ratings

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CassandraLeo
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 contains several previously unreleased songs that had become legendary amongst fans of the band, most notably "Burn the Witch", which dates back to the Kid A sessions in composition and had never been performed in public (apart from a few chords). "True Love Waits" had been previously available on the EP I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, but it's finally getting a studio release twenty-one years after it was premičred live. Most of the other songs don't have such a lengthy lineage, but many of them date back at least eight years.

The material on this album is largely subdued orchestral art pop, in many cases reflecting Thom Yorke's recent separation from his partner of twenty-three years. This is obliquely referenced on several cuts from the album; for example, "Daydreaming" contains a backmasked vocal that has been interpreted by fans as saying "Half of my life". Yorke is, one may note, currently forty-seven years old, meaning that he was with his former partner for nearly half of his life. "True Love Waits" was previously a tender, haunting love song, but in the album's current context it becomes even more emotional, with the song's refrain of "Just don't leave" becoming more resonant than ever.

Other songs are perceived to address the political issues one would expect from a Radiohead record. "Burn the Witch" has been interpreted as addressing the scapegoating of immigrants or authoritarianism and groupthink, while "The Numbers" addresses climate change. The album's title seems to be a reference to the Earth itself in the aftermath of global warming: after the melting of the polar ice caps, all that will be left is a moon-shaped pool. Notably, the shape on the cover resembles a distorted version of North America.

The album benefits strongly from Jonny Greenwood's string arrangements, which can be found on many of the album's songs (most obviously the lead single, "Burn the Witch"). Other songs, such as "True Love Waits", have more sparse arrangements. This song, when performed live, was usually performed as an acoustic guitar number, sometimes with a synthesizer accompaniment. Here, it's performed mostly on a solitary electric piano, with sparse additional instrumentation, and it's even more heartbreaking than ever.

A Moon Shaped Pool will undoubtedly be one of the most talked-about releases of the year, and thankfully, Radiohead have lived up to expectations. The only significant flaw I can cite with the album is its mastering, but this is of course nothing new for the band. Most of the songs distort significantly from clipping; "The Numbers" has attracted significant complaint from listeners for this problem. However, this flaw isn't enough to counteract the power of this music, and it makes another worthwhile addition to Radiohead's already legendary canon.

CassandraLeo | 5/5 |

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