Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool //
There are very few bands out there right now who can create as much of a buzz as Radiohead. Over the last 30 years, Thom Yorke and his cohorts have managed to defy any box that music critics have tried to put them in, creating a sound that’s uniquely their own. And although the five-piece’s prior studio effort The King of Limbs didn’t quite stand up to 2007’s crown jewel In Rainbows, Radiohead still remain one of the world’s most important bands today. If anything, their ninth and newest record should only further cement that sentiment as the band explores new territory sonically while still crafting an album that could only sound like them. A Moon Shaped Pool may just be Radiohead’s prettiest effort to date, but is it hands down their best?
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BAM TEAM RATING:
When rumors of Radiohead’s ninth LP started to swirl in the middle of 2014, the three-time Grammy winners had taken a year off as frontman Thom Yorke focused on his side project Atoms for Peace, drummer Philip Selway released his second solo album and bassist Colin Greenwood endeavored in philanthropic work. But most notable of them all was what lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood turned his attention to, collaborating with orchestral groups like the Australian Chamber Orchestra and London Contemporary Orchestra, experiences for which he later said had a profound impact on his approach to live performance. So, it’s no surprise then to see Radiohead go headlong in that direction on A Moon Shaped Pool, their highly anticipated masterpiece that in less than an hour, gently and unassumingly floats by on a bevy of beautiful string arrangements, minimalist electronic flourishes and of course, Yorke’s somber, yet heartfelt lyrics. From the opening notes of “Burn the Witch” to closing number “True Love Waits”, which the band has performed live for over 20 years but had not dropped a studio recording of until now, the younger Greenwood’s cinematic practices from his days composing the soundtracks for Paul Thomas Anderson’s last three films — “There Will Be Blood”, “The Master” and “Inherent Vice” — shine bright throughout. Yet, arguably more than any other Radiohead album that has come before it, AMSP, like a fine wine, only gets better with age, maturing more and more after each listen until it finally hooks you for good. -Josh Herwitt
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Identikit”
A Moon Shaped Pool is seemingly the most nostalgic addition to Radiohead’s catalog. Trading synthesizers and drum kits for guitars and orchestras, Radiohead’s new LP brings their best elements to the forefront: haunting lyrics, acoustically driven melodies and highly textured, detailed production. AMSP is a return to the band’s signature guitar arrangements, including a labyrinthine solo at the end of “Identikit” that is both unexpected and beautifully executed. “Burn the Witch” and “Glass Eyes” exquisitely showcases the skills that multi-instrumentalist Johnny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, percussion) has developed over the past 10 years while composing the music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s most recent films, guiding the rhythms and adding a grandiose touch to all 11 tracks. These string arrangements reach their absolute peak during “The Numbers”, beautifully adding to the cascading arrangement of acoustic guitars and pianos. Closing track “True Love Waits” is the culmination of 20 years of songwriting as a band — a song beautifully translated from a raw solo recording from 2001’s I Might Be Wrong live album into a delicate, perfectly-arranged melody; the right home for such a deeply-loved fan favorite. AMSP is a reminder of what is essential in life and one of the best additions to Radiohead’s repertoire. -Brett Ruffenach
4 BAMS // Top Song: “True Love Waits”
Don’t call A Moon Shaped Pool a “break-up album” or go as far to say it’s Radiohead’s final release because if there’s one thing Thom Yorke and company have taught us over the past couple of decades, it’s to avoid all labels and categorization when referring to them. But I’ll play my own devil’s advocate and describe this record in one word: cinematic. Paul Thomas Anderson’s mesmerizing video for “Daydreaming” was not our first glimpse into the album but was quite possibly the most revealing piece of the pre-release puzzle; the pictorial short, which accompanies the track’s swirling string sections and haunting vocal embellishments, should raise the hairs on your arm as the music builds, morphs and even growls (literally) at the listener. But as Radiohead draw closer to gaining their AARP cards, we see them return to music that may be interpreted in a slightly more inward manner, even if the majority of these tracks have been heard before in some way or another. AMSP is a deep listen, best suited for solitary listens as there are weighty issues for both the delivery agents and the recipients to work out on their own terms. -Kevin Quandt
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Daydreaming”
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