As industry veterans of over 30 years, it is perhaps no surprise that A Moon Shaped Pool was Radiohead’s sixth album to reach number one in the UK charts, almost immediately after release. The latest of nine studio albums, their skill in songwriting and years of experience really shine through a fresh minimalist approach taken by the band in their latest sonic experiment.
This is the band’s first album since Thom Yorke's separation from his partner of 23 years and this may well be a contributing factor towards the overall theme of the album: one of melancholy and despair. This is perhaps the band's darkest and most emotional album to date. That being said, there is certainly an easy listening vibe to this album which may have been lacking in The King of Limbs five years ago, as the intricacies in the interweaving of melodic elements appear to be much easier to grasp this time round.
Over the last three decades, what Radiohead did better than every other band was managing to find a way to keep reinventing themselves as musicians, as well as a band. This definitely helped them stay relevant in a scene where the landscape is constantly in a state of flux. Each new album managed to portray growth, while also finding a way to not compromise the overall authenticity of their sound, ultimately resulting in them becoming expert songwriters. The growth of the band is most evident in songs like Desert Island Disk, True Love Waits, Identikit and Burn The Witch, songs that fans may remember from unreleased recordings, as well as recordings of various live performances over the years. Burn The Witch was composed over fifteen years ago around when Kid A was released in 2000. One of the most interesting aspects of listening to this album is the ability to see the changes in these rearranged songs. The previously recorded version of True Love Waits, a personal favourite, is strikingly different to the four note piano lead driven version released in this album.
The few memorable moments that listeners are presented with in this album are too few and far between, and ultimately feel like small fragments of a larger, almost forgettable bigger picture. That being said, the album does have its strengths, like the analog synth sounds the drift around the soundscape like clouds floating across an empty sky. The space left behind by the movement of these sounds is filled by lush pads soaked in reverb, which help add to the ethereal feel of the album.
This latest release leaves the band with plenty of room to experiment in the futures, and is definitely a step in the right direction for the band. It is likely to provide them with a solid foundation for their next release, whenever that may be.