For quite a few people, "A Moon Shaped Pool" will be considered the best Radiohead album of all time. At least for a while. Because the UK five-piece around frontman Thom Yorke can't get past its two music-historical monuments "OK Computer" and "Kid A" in the long run, even with its ninth longplayer. Nevertheless, it's an excellent album, which towards the end of the year should quite rightly appear in pretty much every serious best list.
There is a reason for this: rarely before has the fusion of so many musical styles (alternative, electronica, ambient, classical, chamber music, choirs, jazz, folk etc.) succeeded as seamlessly as on the new album by the indie legend from Oxfordshire. The means used are strictly in the service of the usual first-class songwriting. Radiohead thus achieve the improbable feat of never slipping into the bombastic, despite all the stops they pull out, but instead make their new songs sound and act minimalist and organic. They will open doors for new listeners.
This is mainly due to the amazing flow of the album: Against all stylistic diversity and supposed breaks between the songs, (almost) everything is in the right place here - from the opener "Burn The Witch" with its percussive string arrangements to ethereal numbers like "Daydreaming", "Decks Dark" and "Desert Island Disk" to the wistfully conciliatory piano closing ballad "True Love Waits". Everything flows. Whereas the electronic-dominated, comparatively energetic interrupters "Ful Stop" and "Identikit" act as points of contrast, but still fit smoothly into the big picture. Greatly arranged build-ups provide the necessary variety and tension at the right moment on this all in all very relaxed musical journey. Multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood's recent experience as an Oscar-winning soundtrack composer is palpable throughout.
Only in the somewhat weaker last third of the new album, the English exceptional musicians suddenly want too much of a good thing and therefore stumble a little. Especially "The Numbers" is bursting at the seams and seems as if you accidentally listened to three songs at once. But of course that's a matter of taste. Especially since "A Moon Shaped Pool" changes with every listen anyway. The songs seem to grow, develop and reveal new facets, nuances and layers again and again - and the deeper you penetrate into the dynamic, labyrinthine and not least also lyrical-cryptic inner life of this complex work of sound art, the more it casts its spell on you. And the more it touches you emotionally. Which is probably the album's greatest strength: It doesn't leave you cold. Only great art can do that, and you can assume that Radiohead have thought of something.
Without having to reinvent themselves yet again, Radiohead have presented an excellent, multi-layered new album with "A Moon Shaped Pool" after a five-year break, which needs some time to fully unfold its effect. Their status as one of the most important bands of the past three decades Thom Yorke and Co. have thus impressively underpinned.
"Radiohead pull out all the stops in 52 minutes, from minimal music to pop symphony, always exciting, sometimes exhausting, sonically convincing." (Audio, July 2016)
"Exquisitely opulent orchestrated, the soul striptease of the singer suffering from this world is spectacularly staged." (Stereo, August 2016)
"Wonderful!" (stereoplay, August 2016)
"No other record from the Radiohead catalogue makes as much sense on vinyl as this one. The reason for this is the previously unknown expanses that build between Thom Yorke's voice and Jonny Greenwood's otherworldly strings, a fully furnished soundscape that comes into its own across the four LP sides." (MINT No. 6, August 2016)