By: Alex LaRosa
Radiohead has been in the music industry for a long time, winning both critical support and chart success. With hits records like Pablo Honey, OK Computer, and Kid A, they’ve produced an impressive backlog of material. So the question was, how would such a band go about making yet another record, when expectations were so high?
The best way to find out, of course, is by having a listen to the record, titled A Moon Shaped Pool. The first song, “Burn the Witch,” is full of promise, with choppy, staccato violins and experimental drums. Floating, ethereal vocals belie their threatening nature: “Burn the witch / we know where you live.” Concluding with a screeching crescendo of strings, it leaves endless possibilities of where to go next.
And Radiohead’s choice of where to go next probably ends up defining how this record will be remembered as by fans. Many bands would follow up “Burn the Witch” with an equally-driven song to keep up momentum, but instead, Thom Yorke and the rest of the band take things down a few notches. “Daydreamer,” a dreamy and experimental 6-and-a-half minute ballad, demonstrates that this will be no ordinary record.
For the rest of A Moon Shaped Pool, that expectation is met, mostly by smashing all other expectations in sight. Drum machines, coupled with acoustic percussion, keep the beats going, and they sound very artsy when coupled with the ever-present tension created by Yorke’s pleading vocals.
The trebly, drifting guitar lines in songs like “Ful Stop” [sic] are a far cry from the grungy alternative rock that made them famous, but here, Radiohead is intent on creating something entirely new. The album features 11 songs, five of which extend longer than five minutes. Obviously, it’s a musical experiment, and while it might not be the Radiohead that some fans are familiar and comfortable with, it’s still a very unified, focused, and cleverly put-together record.
In the eyes of the critics, the experiment was a success. For the fifth time in the band’s history, their album was nominated to win the Mercury Prize for the best record in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2016. It was also a hit with the people, as it topped charts worldwide and at home in the United Kingdom, where it was certified gold for having reached 100,000 record sales.
After finishing A Moon Shaped Pool, one might wonder what on Earth could be next for the British quintet. This record proves that no sonic territory is too daunting of a challenge, and while it may not stand as the finest Radiohead record of all time, it certainly stands on its own as an intrepid, thoughtful, and intriguing slice of art-rock.