Even if you’re only passively aware of what’s buzzing in the music world, it’s safe to say you’re well aware that Radiohead are back with a new album. Their ninth full-length, A Moon Shaped Pool, dropped this past Sunday after not-so-subtly hinting at a new album for months, and then causing the twitter-verse to go up in a flurry (of words) by momentarily disappearing from the internet completely.
Radiohead’s albums, from Ok Computer to Kid A, are often heralded for their ingenuity, introducing a vast swath of listeners to an entirely new sonic head-space; a concoction comprised of Thom Yorke’s mutant vocals which fluctuate between incomprehensible warbles and shimmering falsetto, alongside an ensemble of musicians that have been honing in on their chops since the 1990s. A Moon Shaped Pool takes classic Radiohead tropes and continue with a more effervescent periphery–and as many have already pointed out, it is more or less a reworking of older Radiohead songs.
The tracks on A Moon Shaped Pool ascend in alphabetical order, perhaps a cliche or sorts, but nonetheless a well-employed device to highlight the albums direction. The album opens with the single “Burn the Witch,” which was the first single teased along with its accompanying music video; which has opined several interpretations. Right off the bat you have one of the albums’ key features–the presence of dizzyingly frantic strings a la lead guitarist Johnny Greenwood (who also scored the spine-tingling soundtrack to P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood). This polished orchestral approach was first manifested during Christmas when Radiohead threw their hat in the 007 theme song ring, by submitting Spectre (Although a valiant effort, the song fell just short of being selected, a distinction which ultimately went to Sam Smith for his song “Writing’s On the Wall“).
The second single “Daydreaming” was released this past Friday, showing a more emotionally tragic side to this album. The song features classic Radiohead piano chords and Thom Yorke’s eerie vocals singing “dreamers / they never learn / beyond the point / of no return.” The video, directed by P.T. Anderson depicts a disoriented Yorke venturing through a labyrinth of various rooms, hallways and a parking lot, with seemingly no direction.
The album ends on the much more subdued “True Love Waits,” a song which has been in the band’s live repertoire since 1995, when they were touring on behalf of The Bends. Although its been a fan favorite for years, this is its first proper studio album release.
Of course, there are many more details to uncover, and that requires more listening. You’ll have to actually purchase this album though, as Radiohead wont be releasing A Moon Shaped Pool on Spotify anytime soon.
In the meantime if you’d like to catch Radiohead live in the United States, fuhgeddaboudit. I mean, seriously. Tickets are completely sold out at their standalone shows and your only other option is to catch them at a select number of festivals. Given the (unstable, irritable) nature of the hype leading up to their new album, demand to see the band live is through the roof, and tickets are being distributed, albeit second-hand market, at insane prices. The band even put out a statement cautioning speculative buyers from being fooled into scam-bait.