Here is the 9th and latest album from Radiohead. Typical of new Radiohead recordings, A Moon Shaped Pool was self released to the internet on May 8, and will get a full rollout on CD and LP in June.
Although not my regular musical beat, I have come to admire the British group's innate musical style and technical accomplishments. And as they grow together, their music becomes even more contemplative and profound.
All the band members contribute, but it's lead singer Thom Yorke that spellbinds with his expressive voice and lyrics and the brilliant Jonny Greenwood, guitarist and composer, who give each release its gravitas and musical direction.
The musical direction here? Rumination, foreboding, contemplation. But, no navel-gazing like a sad, rainy day with Coldplay. Strong lyrics backed up with insistently strong (not always loud) rhythmic drive and mesmerizing harmonies.
The opening track 'Burn the Witch' is the most energetic, up tempo song on the album. A thrashing, Steve Reich-like string figure cuts and swathes below, above and through Yorke's voice. It's a superb musical effect. And like much of Greenwood's work, harmonically quite daring.
Yorke shines brightly and musically on two ballads - 'Daydreaming' and an oldie revamped, 'True Love Waits. Yorke's tessitura is such a pained falsetto, but he's no musical poser. The musical collaboration is superb. I shook my head in amazement at some of the harmonic shifts, so interesting, so beautiful, and coming out of nowhere. And then some underlying samplings of snoring. I think. These boys will keep audiophiles on their toes.
With 'Decks Dark' we get vocal backgrounds beautifully integrated. Even use of orchestral ritornello for closure. Much the same style but with intriguing lyrics for other tracks like 'Ful Stop' and 'Identikit'. Then 'Glass Eyes' with its especially beautiful string arrangement.
'The Numbers' sounds like a guitar, piano voice deep mix in a echo chamber with the shadow of The Doors not far away. The string line is very different yet revealing the underlying vibe of the song. So much more than clever. And those perceptive yet unnatural key changes to close.
A nice rhythmic interlude by way of a Bossa Nova in 'Present Tense'. Executed to perfection. Antonio Carlos Jobim in could not have arranged the heavenly choir voices any better.
How to assess Moon as a recording? Audiophile or otherwise? Difficult. It's so layered, analog and electronic. Orchestral strings, backing voices, sound effects, too.
As pop recordings go, it sounds wonderful. Does an echo chamber need an audiophile kick? Not really. You pop people, far more expert at this genre of music than me, will know the musicians' perfectionist bent. The care. The time. Well, that's all here in A Moon Shaped Pool. Fans will have been waiting since the rumours to download. Newcomers to the genre or those intrigued, I think you'll really enjoy the album. When genius and natural talent meets skill, great things can happen in pop music. Highly recommended.
XL Recordings [52:31]
Release date: June 17, 2016