Radiohead's 2016 release, "A Moon Shaped Pool," might be its best album since "Kid A," but without a half-dozen listens under the belt, it's hard to judge. The group's albums are not what they first appear, and never just a collection of new songs. Radiohead albums are meant to be experienced with headphones from beginning to end, multiple times, before opinions have a chance to form.
There is no middle ground when it comes to Radiohead, formed in 1985 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It consists of Thom Yorke, lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards, Jonny Greenwood, lead guitar, Colin Greenwood on bass, Phil Selway, percussion and backing vocals, and Ed O'Brien on guitar and backing vocals. The group's first single, "Creep" was a massive smash even though it came off of the only terrible album in Radiohead's discography, 1993's "Pablo Honey." The album is forgettable Britpop that could have stopped a lesser band dead in its tracks.
However, genius producer Nigel Godrich, 24 at the time, changed everything with 1995's "The Bends," a sumptuous album that altered the band's trajectory. Godrich has produced all of Radiohead's albums except its debut.
Looking back, "OK Computer" in 1997 pulled back from the guitar-oriented early work, adding the layers the band is famous for: experimental electronic sound, high production values and discordant lyricism. In 2000, "Kid A" saw the band settling in to electronic beats, a sound carried through to 2001's "Amnesiac" and "Hail to the Thief" (2003). The self-released seventh album, 2007's "In Rainbows" balanced the abstract with pay-as-you-want download accessibility.
From just a few listens, "A Moon Shaped Pool" reveals a haunting desolation. In "True Love Waits" we hear Yorke's ethereal vocals cry to a world that is too large to care about just one man. The opening lyrics, "I'll drown my beliefs to have your babies," capture the distorted thoughts of sacrifices made on the pyre of romance.
For now, the new album is released digitally, although a special edition can be ordered from Radiohead's website. It's an excellent addition to an already stellar discography, and like previous releases, quite possibly addictive.
"A Moon Shaped Pool"
Available on iTunes