A Moon Shaped Pool


XL, 2016


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Is this what Radiohead has turned into?

I thought In Rainbows was an aberration, but 2011’s The King Of Limbs only reinforced that this serious band had become sort of dull, and that album seems to have been universally met with shrugs. For certain fans – our Vault assistant editor Melanie Love among them – the album was a grower, but I was far less inclined to sit through multiple listens until Thom Yorke's musings somehow clicked.

Unfortunately, A Moon Shaped Pool continues this trend. The difference here is the presence of strings, two songs that date back many years but have never been recorded, and the ability to be affected by these songs on the first listen, not the 12th. The bulk of the album murmurs along with electronic blips and very little in the way of dynamics and chord changes. Most sad, for me, is the absence of drama that one needs to pull off this kind of serious, dreamscape introspection. It ends up being a series of tone poems without a clear purpose for much of the run time.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Songs like "Glass Eyes," "Decks Dark," "Daydreaming," "Desert Island Disk," and "Present Tense" will barely register, lending the album a gray monotony (plus, all the songs are in alphabetical order for no apparent reason). It's mood music, either meant for the background or to listen to by yourself on headphones when you're in an emo mood, and ain't nobody got time for that in 2016. Plus, where is the thrill? Where is the payoff? What is the point? 

It's the better moments of the album where that point reveals itself, appearing like unexpected? punctuation! on a British run-on; sentence. "Burn The Witch" is finally given the studio treatment and is an easy highlight of the entire Radiohead outpost post-Kid A, with the strings, the claustrophobic electronic, and Yorke's soaring voice immediately creating a unique dream world gone bad. "The Numbers" is another winner, using the strings to create an atmosphere both alluring and suffocating, while the closer "True Love Waits" (a Radiohead staple for some time, though not in official studio form) befits the sound of the album but feels more like a lovely elegy than a musing on panic attacks and the numbness of daily life.

Albums like this usually come with adjectives like "brooding," "difficult," and maybe "profound," but I would add some like "dull," "monotonous," and "what in the world happened to Radiohead?". It's a fine-sounding album, lovely and gentle and immaculate, and that's precisely why it's mostly one to avoid.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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