Over their 21 years of existence, Radiohead has reinvented themselves and their music landscape perhaps more times than any other act currently active. Their sound has never failed in its innovation and unique beauty, combining the melancholic tones of Thom Yorke’s vocals with swelling instrumentation to provide a musical experience which arguably transcends audio itself. A Moon Shaped Pool, their ninth and perhaps most personal record to date, is no exception.
Written as Yorke was divorcing his partner of 23 years, A Moon Shaped Pool projects itself as a reflective epilogue of the battles between his personal life, love, and his musical career. ‘Daydreaming’ reflects on this directly, with lines such as “Beyond the point of no return…the damage is done” carrying significantly greater weight as a result. Closing track ‘True Love Waits’ has been part of Radiohead’s live sets for over two decades, and with it making its first recorded appearance on this album, it is hard to ignore the song’s timing as personally significant to Yorke’s state of mind.
The arrangement of the record is amongst the most well structured of the year. As with all Radiohead records, each of A Moon Shaped Pool‘s tracks are carefully selected with their positions organised to flow effortlessly between one another, using subtle blends between songs to create seamless transitions that help solidify the album as a singular piece meant to be experienced in an uninterrupted sitting. Similarly, its tone is explicitly Radiohead whilst distinctly new. Combining ambient synths with an often prominently haunting live orchestra, A Moon Shaped Pool holds a certain awe which, in hyperbolic terms, wouldn’t feel out of place on a playlist in purgatory. With all of the album’s elements combining to form a perfect balance of emotion and melodic enjoyment, it may not be too bold to consider A Moon Shaped Pool in line with Kid A, OK Computer, and The Bends as one of Radiohead’s masterworks.
As can appropriately be said of only the greatest of musicians, Radiohead succeeds in transporting listeners to a place outside of the everyday. Like a melancholic lullaby, A Moon Shaped Pool lulls you into a state of otherness which, by the album’s end, has you questioning how long you have been listening for and quite how it made you feel like time had stopped altogether. But, once it is over and you’ve listened multiple times, the one thing you won’t be questioning is the album’s position as one of this year’s greatest and, perhaps, after giving it more time, as one of the great albums of this decade.
A Moon Shaped Pool was released on May 8th via XL