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Albums of the Year: Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year: Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

Albums of the Year: Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

Thom Yorke captured the fearful sound of alienation in 2016

A Moon Shaped Pool: anxiety and fever

Context in rock is everything. Popular music is, after all, essentially a reaction to a moment in time. So, whilst in another year, an album like A Moon Shaped Pool may just have lurked in my top five, political circumstances propelled it straight to number one. It wasn't just that the piece was thick with feverishness and alienation. What really made it embody 2016 was the unmistakable whiff of fear. 

The album's emotional release began from the get-go. "Burn the Witch" was built on a series of rhythms that pulsated like a montage of Daily Mail headlines. Lyrics such as "burn the witch/ we know where you live/…abandon all reason", spoke both of fear-mongering and the anti-intellectualism of our post-truth era. The song didn't simply serve to warn, though. The track's anthemic quality also succeeded in expressing mounting indignation and bewilderment. Life was becoming increasingly bizarre. 

For the most part, however, A Moon Shaped Pool was just fidgety and sad. And anxious, like the vague unease many shared in early summer. Then there was shock followed by a sense of unreality. "Truth will mess you up," Thom Yorke sang over and over on "Ful Stop". The song may have really been about his break up with his long-term partner Rachel Owen (who died from cancer last month) but the manner of expression was sufficiently abstract to express separation on any level.

Just being Radiohead in a particularly Radioheadish year would not have been sufficient for the top spot. Unlike previous releases which seemed to want to impress, this one really wanted to really communicate with you. Maybe it was down to how the album drew on half-finished musical ideas. Or maybe it was just a maturing of the sound they have been working for over a decade. The synths were still there. The staccato rhythms too. But it was also pretty and very, very melancholy. Some tracks featured weeping strings, others saw the return of guitars. Not everyone dug it, though. Some thought Yorke's vocals took sorrow to the point of moaning. Still, in 2016, that felt like something to be proud of.


Two More Essential Albums from 2016

Bon Iver - 22, A Million

Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

Gig of 2016

Jeff Lynne's ELO at O2 Arena, Greenwich

Track of the Year

Laura Marling - "Soothing"



A Moon Shaped Pool was just fidgety and sad. And anxious, like the vague unease many shared in early summer

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