9 albums and 23 years into their career, Radiohead delivered their most immediately beautiful and personal work yet. Set against the backdrop of the breakdown of Thom Yorke’s relationship with his long-term partner and mother of his two children, but making only oblique and passing reference to this event, A Moon Shaped Pool is perhaps Radiohead’s most melodically generous and open album, a refreshing break from 2011’s paranoid, fractious The King of Limbs as well as Yorke’s recent solo work. The band collated Jonny Greenwood’s recent experience as a classical and film score composer into their recording sessions, most notably working with the London Contemporary Orchestra on Burn The Witch, the lead single that became more and more frighteningly prescient as 2016 wore on (‘Abandon all reason/Avoid all eye contact…Shoot the messengers). Interspersed with long-time live show favourites (Ful Stop, Identikit, and most incredibly the 20 year old True Love Waits), as well as new tracks that stand alongside anything the band has released (Daydreaming, Decks Dark), A Moon Shaped Pool felt like a band more comfortable than ever before, not attempting gimmicky songwriting techniques like the free-associative exercise on The King of Limbs, or overstretching themselves musically. A Moon Shaped Pool reaffirmed, if anyone needed reminding, Radiohead’s ability to create achingly beautiful songs using just a guitar or piano, and Thom Yorke’s falsetto. A stunning return to form.
Words: Nick Bedingfield