Radiohead return with gorgeous “A Moon Shaped Pool”

Nicolas Henderson


Radiohead’s stage setup at their Dallas stop of The King Of Limbs tour in 2012. Photo by Nicolas Henderson.

Nicolas Henderson, Staff Writer

Radiohead fans have really had to learn how to be patient waiting for the long anticipated followup to 2011’s underrated The King Of Limbs, but the wait has finally paid off. The elusive LP9, officially titled A Moon Shaped Pool was released digitally May 8, with physical release coming out on June 17, along with a special edition that will be shipped out in September.


The last five years have been a whirlwind of speculation in regards to what songs would end up on the album, and many fans were happy to see that some of their most highly regarded unreleased tracks, including “Present Tense” and the over 20 year old “True Love Waits” made the cut. Of course, fans also know this is nothing new for the band, as many tracks off of previous albums were also written prior to the recording of those respective albums.


The album opens with the most upbeat song of the album, “Burn The Witch”, a track that dates back to at least the Hail To The Thief era. The song sets the stage for the rest of the album with it’s string-based backbone being aided by Colin Greenwood’s powerful bass, Philip Selway’s unique drumming pattern, and Thom Yorke’s haunting vocals. Upon first listen I was slightly disappointed that the rest of the album wasn’t as upbeat as this track, but that disappointment was gone by the second listen.


The second track, “Daydreaming”, which has an accompanying music video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is probably the best representation of the album as a whole. A simple piano part is joined by an assortment of Radiohead-esque soundscapes to create a beautiful, almost soundtrack-like song. Some have speculated that the song is a reflection on Yorke’s career, while others think it is related to his breakup with longtime girlfriend Rachel Owens last year.


While it had to grow on me at first, it has quickly become one of my favorite songs on the album. The track is followed by “Deck’s Dark”, which in my view is the only track on the album that could serve as a radio single, aside from the first single “Burn The Witch”. Decks is classic Radiohead, it is very reminiscent of In Rainbows to me.


The pretty “Desert Island Disk” might become one of the overlooked tracks on the album as it is followed by the epic “Ful Stop”, but it deserves it’s credit, it is a great track in its own right. “Ful Stop” is a track the band premiered during its tumultuous King Of Limbs tour in 2012, and it is the centerpiece of the album. Most Radiohead albums have that one classic song, like “Lotus Flower” from The King Of Limbs and “There, There” off of Hail To The Thief. “Ful Stop” is that song for this album. Everything about this song is great, from the superb production (especially on the drums) to the climax which features Yorke reminiscing on “all the good times”.


“Glass Eyes” is a quick break from the madness of “Ful Stop”, with Yorke slowing things down on this haunting piano based tune. It is followed by another track debuted on the King Of Limbs tour, “Identikit”. While I enjoyed the live version of this song when I saw it performed in Dallas in 2012, the studio version takes it to an entire new level, a testament to the time and care this band puts into perfecting its music. While I wouldn’t see this track working on the radio (which is more of a good thing than a bad thing, I should clarify), it is, along with “Burn The Witch”, the most uptempo song on the record.


Following “Identikit” is “The Numbers”, a track that in my opinion has a very strong resemblance to Noel Gallagher’s 2015 track “The Right Stuff”. “The Numbers” guitar work is also somewhat reminiscent of 2003’s “Go To Sleep”, which is a good thing. “Present Tense”, a b-side that fans have wanted to be released for years finally saw the light of day on this record, and it is amazing. In fact, I think it is the best track on the album. The second half of the song, with its unpredictable chord changes and Yorke’s aching vocals, as he repeats “in you I’m lost” is simply stunning. An amazing track.


The last two songs of the record end the journey perfectly. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief” (yes, that is really it’s name), is a track that took me a couple listens to fully appreciate, but it is now one of my favorite songs on the record. The ethereal orchestral parts at the end of the track, aided by the subtle backbeat of Philip Selway’s drums makes for an epic segue into the beautiful final track, a song that fans have waited over 20 years to be released, “True Love Waits”.


The track was originally written around the beginning of Yorke’s relationship with Rachel Owen in the mid-1990s, but its 2016 release, a year after their split, gives it a heartbreaking twist as he belts out the final line of the album, “please don’t leave”. It’s not even worth trying to interpret the exact meaning behind Yorke’s lyrics and the songs that are chosen to be on the album, but Radiohead fans are essentially conspiracy theorists, so it’s natural to assume that there is some hidden meaning behind ending this particular album with this track.


Over the 20 plus years since the band’s 1993 debut, Pablo Honey, Radiohead have consistently broken new ground and delivered album after album of unique and inspiring material, and A Moon Shaped Pool continues that. While it is too early for me to call this a classic Radiohead album, it very well could be up there with OK Computer and Kid A as one of the masterpieces of the band’s catalog.


Radiohead is performing a select few United States shows this year, and Texas is lucky enough to be one of these stops, as they are headlining this year’s Austin City Limits Festival. You can purchase A Moon Shaped Pool digitally here, or you can stream it on Apple Music and Tidal (it is not on Spotify yet).