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Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool *

Album Reviews:

Rolling Stone - "If Radiohead have made the dehumanizing effects of technology their great theme, A MOON SHAPED POOL is the first record in which, musically, they kick their way out of the machine, or at least make their cyborg soul more vestigial."

Spin - "'Present Tense' is where Pool locates its hips, light-touch psychedelic flamenco brushing up against country gothic while Yorke catalogs fears through one channel and flickering, massed voices moan replies from the other."

Entertainment Weekly - "By nature, Radiohead albums will always be somewhat epic, but this one is more consistently grandiose than any of the band's releases since 2000's masterpiece KID A." -- Grade: A

NME (Magazine) - "Thom Yorke and co remain reluctant saviours of rock, and A MOON SHAPED POOL doesn't so much grab you by the throat as creep into your house in the night and paint your walls an enigmatic shade of blue."

Paste (magazine) - "Thom Yorke's oceanic piano loops, half-mumbled falsettos and reversed vocal wails recall the insular KID A-AMNESIAC era, while Greenwood's dense string orchestrations echo the warmest stretches of LIMBS..."

Pitchfork (Website) - "Throughout the album, Yorke's everyday enlightenment is backed by music of expanse and abandon. The guitars sound like pianos, the pianos sound like guitars, and the mixes breathe with pastoral calm."

Clash (magazine) - "[A] haunting, mesmerising and often breathtaking collection of songs, showcasing the band at their most personal. It's both remarkably familiar yet, at the same time singular and unique in it's execution."

Album Notes

A cursory glance at A Moon Shaped Pool may suggest a certain measure of indifference on the part of Radiohead. Its 11 songs are sequenced in alphabetical order -- a stunt befitting a Pixies concert or perhaps a Frank Black box set, not a proper album -- and many of these tunes are of an older vintage: the group began work on the opening "Burn the Witch" at the turn of the century, while the closing "True Love Waits" first appeared in concerts way back in 1995. These are the elements of a clearinghouse, but with Radiohead appearances are always deceiving. A Moon Shaped Pool doesn't play like an ill-considered collection of leftovers; it unfurls with understated ease, each silvery song shimmering into the next. The pulse rarely quickens and the arrangements seldom agitate, yet the album never quite feels monochromatic. Sly, dissonant strings grace some cuts, acoustic guitars provide a pastoral counterpoint to an electronic pulse, Thom Yorke's voice floats through the music, often functioning as nothing more than an element of a mix; what he's saying matters not as much as how he murmurs. Such subtle, shifting textures emphasize Radiohead's musicianship, a point underscored when this version of "True Love Waits" is compared to its 2001 incarnation. There, Yorke accompanied himself with a simple acoustic guitar and he seemed earnest and yearning, but here, supported by piano and strings, he sounds weary and weathered, a man who has lost his innocence. What he and Radiohead have gained, however, is some measure of maturity, and with this, their music has deepened. Certainly, sections of A Moon Shaped Pool contain an eerie, disconcerting glimmer, usually attained through power kept in reserve -- nothing stabs as hard as the sawing fanfare of "Burn the Witch," while the winding, intersecting guitars that conclude "Identikit" provide the noisiest element -- yet the album as a whole doesn't feel unsettling. Instead, there's a melancholic comfort to its ebb and flow, a gentle rocking motion that feels comforting; it's a tonic to the cloistered, scattered King of Limbs and even the sleek alienation of Kid A. Radiohead are recognizably the same band that made that pioneering piece of electronica-rock but they're older and wiser on A Moon Shaped Pool, deciding not to push at the borders of their sound but rather settle into the territory they've marked as their own. This may not result in a radical shift in sound but rather a welcome change in tone: for the first time Radiohead feel comfortable in their own skin. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine


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