Normally we at The Indie Blender like to write about lesser-known artists who are producing great music that is not necessarily getting the attention it deserves, but every once in a while an indie album becomes the talk of the music world. The surprise release of Radiohead’s long-awaited A Moon Shaped Pool is one such moment. This is a record that every music fan feels a need to weigh in on, love it or hate it. Now I have the daunting task of summing up a Radiohead album in a few paragraphs. Let’s do it.
A Moon Shaped Pool. The name conjures images of darkness, foreboding, stillness, and stagnant water. When listening to this record I feel a certain lingering tension and fear. There is a sense of anxiety that gives me a strong urge to hide. Thom Yorke and Radiohead have created a slight, persistent dissonance which steadily grows over the course of the album. Tremendous subtlety is employed, forcing the listener to dive deep into the cold, enveloping liquid to understand the troubled emotions that inhabit A Moon Shaped Pool.
At times we are given brief moments to catch our breath in the lush serenity of songs like “Desert Island Disk” and “The Numbers”. Strategically placed to ensure that we can handle the morose nature of the rest of the album, these two songs speak to the cohesiveness of A Moon Shaped Pool. This is truly a record that must be listened to front to back in order to be fully appreciated, and for me that would be a difficult task without a bit of respite. If you choose to hit play on “Burn the Witch” and follow the music to its end, you will find a rich tale of raw feeling which is certainly not uplifting, but could provide a relatable voice or a deep sense of catharsis.
All that being said, where does A Moon Shaped Pool stack up against previous Radiohead albums? I wouldn’t say it’s in the same company as their groundbreaking records such as OK Computer, Kid A, The Bends, and In Rainbows. I think that while their last record, The King of Limbs is more musically innovative, A Moon Shaped Pool works much better as a cohesive unit. The songs on A Moon Shaped Pool individually are not completely unique like some of their earlier work, but as a whole the album takes on an identity that you will not find anywhere else. While that may seem like a less-than-stellar rating of A Moon Shaped Pool, there are many excellent, well-liked bands that have never made a record this good. Oh, and it’s far better than Pablo Honey.
A Moon Shaped Pool is an album that’s going to be valued differently by every listener, but no matter what I think it will be talked about for quite some time. Don’t give up on this record after one or two tries. Give it time to sink in and see where it takes you.