First Listen Review: Radiohead – “A Moon Shaped Pool”

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The Good: I’ve never really considered myself a bleeding heart Radiohead fan. Friends who I respect for having a large repertoire of music in their collection as well as acquaintances with a more limited focus in music often place some large medal at Radiohead’s feet in regards to them being “experimental” or “the greatest modern rock band”. Kid-A may deserve that experimental label, especially for its time where the subtle keyboard was only just being realised as a tool for ambience and the slight tweak of a person’s voice more than a vehicle for helping a bad singer sound good. I could be lenient and say Ok Computer and Amnesiac can be claimed promethean in a way too. Both are certainly good albums with interesting meanings and impressive use of styles/instrumentation. Nevertheless, I’ve always been a little scared of letting known that I have never successfully been interested in listening to a Radiohead album from beginning to end, apart from Kid A. Albums have always had half their songs flocked with powerful word imagery and sharp toned chord choices, but there have always seemed another half slowing the pace down. Maybe I’m not one for Radiohead’s slower material and prefer more aggressive or emotional songs when it comes to negative emotions. This isn’t to say I haven’t understood the paranoia choked up in a lot of Radiohead’s writing that can be a breath of fresh air for people coughing from the modern world’s insistence to be calculated in everything we do.

In the past, Radiohead songs have always felt like a introverted college student sitting in a cafe during a rainy day, watching the cars go by. Sometimes the songs have absorbed the greyness of the outside world while other moments songs have dipped into the purple and red that takes place in the individual’s inner mind. This album, however, presents the colors yellow, orange, and white. It feels more open, as if it resembles a person lying in a field encircled by trees whilst he stares up through the leaves and glimpses the rays of sunlight peeking through the cracks. One can certainly find this feeling across the album with the keyboards drifting across drum tracks in a distant, yet nearby and encapsulating, feeling. The use of escalating and descending piano notes adds to this effect.Perhaps the magic of the naming of songs on here. “Daydreaming” is the perfect example of how the music’s feeling manifests itself more noticeable in actual words.

There is always something about the classic lying in the grass while watching the sky. Somehow looking into the light whilst all alone carries a tendency of nostalgia. A feeling that everything in the past was ok, even though it wasn’t. It’s a similar feeling I used to get while watching Trumpton at my Grandmother’s house. Everything so cozy in that small town. The opening music sounding slightly off key and eerie due to the recording abilities of the time. My relatives sitting around making comments how the period when this show was new seemed not so long ago, but then giving it a second thought and realising how much time has passed. Again, this image of the sun: close but far away. The guitar on “Desert Island Disk” instantly reminds me of the opening theme to Camberwick Green or Trumpton due to this quality.

Perhaps this was the feeling the band was going for. The album comes at the end of a breakup. Maybe choosing to make the sound of the album feel like sitting light and free underneath the looming sun was done to carry the feeling one has at the end of something good that has run dry. It’s the feeling that what happiness once was, should be remembered. Despite a scenario needing to end, there is the understanding that not everything has to be perfect. Everything, even the romantic love mankind constantly places on a pedestal, may be fleeting. Another will come in the future. Furthermore, in the context of Radiohead’s entire chronology, maybe this is a greater awakening: a coming to terms with the heartache, helplessness, loneliness, and feelings of insignificance that once dominated the band. Radiohead have always been praised for constantly reinventing their sound, but perhaps this is the first time they have reinvented their feel. If this is the truth, I am excited. This is the first album I can listen to from beginning to end and actually did so on multiple occasions in one day.

The Bad: Nothing as of yet

Would I Listen Again: Definitely

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