Album Review: A Moon Shaped Pool - Radiohead
By Benjamin Irons
From a series of televised "blips" for the promotion of Kid A back in 2000, to the "pay-what-you-want" download for the 2007 release of In Rainbows, the latest instalment in the band's everlasting wealth of musical capabilities demonstrates their miraculous promotional expertise, via monochrome leaflets in the post and stills of an animated wooden bird at dawn chorus. Less than a week later, we find ourselves stumped over Radiohead's headline-stealing publicity surrounding their now ninth, most distinctly polished and fascinating studio album to date.
Artwork by Stanley Donwood. Donwood, who has worked with Radiohead since 1995, designed these pieces in a barn with speakers connected to the studio where the band recorded nearby, allowing their music to influence his art.
The album's heavily teased single, and consequent opener "Burn The Witch" is the ripe resulting fruit of a decade's worth of fan-tormenting labour, since it's initial mention back at a show at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, July 2006. Just under 10 years later, we are welcomed with a rather charismatic artefact that blends haunting string arrangements, fluid vocal poetry - "This is a low flying panic attack, sing a song of sixpence that goes, burn the witch... we know where you live" - and a fluttering digital percussion.
"Ful Stop" and "Identikit" paint a livelier picture on a canvas of clicking drum beats and soft-spoken vocal harmonies throughout. "The Numbers", despite also shifting the attention away from a tone of mystifying anxiety, is a defiant protest towards the ever-growing problems of climate change, which gives depth to the album's theme of honesty and realness.
Similarly, an exhausted marital mourning is sorely heartfelt on "Daydreaming" - "And it's too late, the damage is done" - serenaded by a gentle symmetry on piano, documenting Yorke's funereal, 23-year departure from his wife and children. "Glass Eyes" and "True Love Waits" also give us listeners a chance to gulp, tear and smile in awe at their quietly reserved, but powerful beauty. The latter, first heard during their tour in 1995, has been transported to the studio, and makes for a humbly climatic end to an album that showcases conventionally daring and beautiful artistry.