Was talking about the new Radiohead album, A Moon Shaped Pool, with a friend and since he hadn't listened yet, I wrote it in a notepad to send to him later. It's posted in a Facebook post, but I felt like it would be buried there. Here's its proxy.
Burn the Witch is a cool jam, and I never realized that anyone could use the suspense and fear and building stress factor as an instrument. The video that accompanied its release is a testament to that and certainly aided my notice of that vibe, but the way the song constantly builds into this almost thrill/horror movie terror is perfect.
Daydreaming is basically what I expect of Radiohead. A perfect song by the band. Almost as if an alternate universe band was just producing songs that I imagine Radiohead would do, this is it. Great song. One of my favorites on the album.
Decks Dark has the simplicity of a drum machine clacking along to set a basic pace, to sort of let Thom Yorke perform his standards above and within it. The misbehavior of repetitious notes that float on the periphery becomes the new star, like a misfit that has been attracted by the simplicity and is teasing and taunting anyone willing to catch it. It all comes together into a swelling hymn, clearly directed and organized. The bass line on the conclusion has a familiar repetition though I can't place its origin. And the blasts of guitar rippling keep the beat in its own way. A pulse from the extraordinary.
Desert Island Disk has that Jonny Greenwood vibe to it. This is his song, his ship. There's something old and western about it, clearly an expanse that inspired the title of the track moreso than the lyrics themselves. There's such a rustic mood about it. One of my favorites throughout the record.
Ful Stop has an unbelievable build throughout it. Nonstop head bobber. The bass line is already famous. Such a drive. The sweeping whale sounds that go over the track give such a thrill ride. A groove. And the jazzy drums around 3:15 get me hype. Lose the mind. There is a flute or a drifting sort of warble that shows up, too, that is sort of reminscent of the Beatles at their coolest, most psychedelic. When this song breaks open, it's like Pandora's Box, man. What an unbelievable groove. This is the song I feel like people will be talking about.
Glass Eyes. It begins so beautifully. Almost painfully. Like waking from a dream. And the way it's produced, almost tuned too loud, like the speakers can't contain it. Like you're listening to found footage is gorgeous. Perfect. Vocals sound like they're stolen from the OK Computer recordings. Just a stoic, eyes closed and clear-as-a-bell delivery. The orchestral qualities here are pitch PITCH perfect, recorded to perfect. Such strong and singular notes.
Identikit has that weird Thom Yorke vibe about it. That untamed reverb mumble quality that a lot of his solo stuff has. And the simple drum and guitar piece over it is minimalism finesse.
It's become clear at this point in the record that even without me paying any mind to it, I've been swept up into another universe by this band. Simply by paying attention, simply by standing and listening to the Man at the Podium, I'm completely bought in and totally sold.
The guitars that stand in at around the 2 minute mark of Identikit show how their simplicity and their looping and repetitive mantras are mental tantricity at their finest. The song builds into this massive crystal tower that I can only marvel at. There's something about the ending that brings up a feeling found in the strange 60s and 70s, those weird Jefferson Airplane moments.
As a title, The Numbers reminds me of Lost. I don't know what it refers to at all. But the way it opens as a montage of sound and vocal certainly fits the bill. A nice, chill sound. The production on this track is really its finest form. A wide and pointilist spread, a real piece of work built of an army of many pieces, it comes together into a strange and beautiful mess. Lots happening, but smoothing into a controlled and warm body.
Present Tense has the same melding of minds feeling. Sort of a swept and shaved concept of seeing the canvas and the paint as it spreads across the surface, that a painting is built of time and pieces, of elements that exist on their own. The beating drum at the finale calls that to concept. That there are men with hands that have touched this piece of work. That nothing is predetermined or built without effort.
Strangely, the next track didn't have much of a personality, but it seemed to gain its blood and skin when the reverb of the track dripped off of Yorke's voice for the first time and became its own splash of a wild eyed liquid. This one, Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief, feels more like a Bjork song, an exhibit to sort of walk through. And it becomes sort of apparent that most of the second half of the album (since The Numbers begun) has sort of felt all the same way, like a moving and winding museum, a trip through an aquarium. A fully guided underwater experience. A display.
And I'm not even there yet, but the final track's title sounds so gorgeous. True Love Waits. The title alone feels like a piece I'd want to frame, if nowhere else, on a piece of untouched, untainted paper.
The piano here sounds distracted. Like being swept off or disturbed for different meanings. Again, returning to the looping and descending sounds of so much of their library before them, it calls to mind an end, a true conclusion to the wilderness that built up before it. The world that it made for itself eventually collapsing in on itself. The foundation no longer with the integrity to contain its expanse.
It's a great album. As someone who only found a fanhood in the band after the previous release, King of Limbs, and then in their live show in New Jersey years later, it's the first album that I was able to see as a release, to follow to its birth and then open up when it finally landed. I can see how this is a total and complete experience, the songs taking the momentum of the build up and sweeping you up within it. This band does things no one else can do, and much of it is happening outside the lines of the music itself. I'm happy to be a part of this full experience.