Album Review: A Moon Shaped Pool — Radiohead

radiohead thom yorke daydreaming

Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool takes listeners to dark, beautiful places of melancholia


This album was released exactly 2 months ago and it wasn't made available on Spotify until recently. I've learnt my lesson from my past few album reviews — never do it after listening to any album just once — and that has proven once again to be right. Honestly, I wasn't blown away by A Moon Shaped Pool the first time I heard it... but I was after a few times and its beauty hit me when I was slightly down. It absorbed me into its enjoyable dark ambiance of sadness.

It's safe to say Radiohead's heavier rock days are long gone but what I love about them is that they're still very experimental, artistic and progressive. Produced again by Nigel Godrich, this album has 3 tracks more than their previous one, The King of Limbs, and in overall, feels more much relatable, cohesive and more of a complete story. The brilliantly crafted composition and less conventional arrangements, featuring strings and choirs performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra, painted fantasies and took me to places. It makes melancholia beautiful.



The album starts with Burn the Witch, a track seemingly about mob mentality and keyboard warriors, something which the band had experienced through their "war" against Spotify and probably other opinions that they had as well. Despite Thom Yorke's soft vocals and falsetto, it's a strong, angry start before the next track, Daydreaming, brings us down to a sensitive, haunting heartbreaker of realisation, much like most of the tracks in the album — "Dreamers, they never learn." At the end of the song, Yorke sings "half of my life" in reverse. Some say it's about Yorke's breakup with his partner of 23 years. The lyrics of the songs are simple and yet it feels so complex and can be easily relatable.

Decks Dark reminds me Teardrop by Massive Attack with its similar ambient nature and beats, but when the bridge brings in the choral vocals, it takes me further down into that gloomy nocturnal world that the album keeps painting for me, with a certain sense of an end of a relationship with someone... or something — "Have you had enough of me? Sweet time." Then comes a seemingly more positive track, Desert Island Disk, which starts with just the acoustic guitar and knocks as beats, with lyrics that suggests that it's possible to let go for "different types of love".

But such as life, the next song, Ful Stop, fittingly with a quicker tempo and stressful sounds, seems like it's about regret. Glass Eyes, the shortest track of the album, is all of deep, deep depression with its lyrics, melody, piano and strings. The mood continues with Identikit, with singalong-able lyrics about how it's never like the fictions. I like how it starts with simple beats and bass line with overlapping vocals before breaking into the mystical-sounding bridge with Thom Yorke and the choir singing "Broken hearts, make it rain" repeatedly, like as though he's inviting all the sad people onto the top of a mountain and just cry it out together, or at least that's what it makes me imagine. The first line of the song is used as the title of the album.



The Numbers has got to be one of the two odd ones here (the other being Burn the Witch), suddenly about the earth, the people and the system. The subject sounds important, but the song, sadly, disconnects me from the flow. Frankly, this one simply bore me. Present Tense and True Love Waits, although written long before the recording of this album like Burn the Witch, brings us back to the main theme, one about how he's found something that allows him to let go while the other is a sweet plea to, perhaps, a new lover, if we follow the main storyline — "Don't leave". The latter truly moved me, more so than the live versions since 2001, and on top of it all, a great track to end the album. The track between those two, Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief, may be about how he's ready to take on whatever that may bring him down.

Favourite track: Identikit

Least favourite: The Numbers

Rating: 4 / 5

a moon shaped pool album coverGenre: Art rock, ambient
Producer: Nigel Godrich
Studio: La Fabrique Studios and RAK Studios
Length: 52:31

Track list:
1. Burn the Witch (3:40)
2. Daydreaming (6:24)
3. Decks Dark (4:41)
4. Desert Island Disk (3:44)
5. Ful Stop (6:07)
6. Glass Eyes (2:52)
7. Identikit (4:26)
8. The Numbers (5:45)
9. Present Tense (5:06)
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief (5:03)
11. True Love Waits (4:43)

Release Date: 8 May 2016
Label: XL

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