A new Radiohead record is always a special event and after a particularly long absence nothing sounds better. I’ve listened to little else since A Moon Shaped Pool went live and I don’t see that changing any time soon. This time around they’ve managed to strike the perfect balance between personal and progressive, fleshing out songs that have been marinating for as long as 15 years. Radiohead’s sound has always seemed more important than Thom’s lyrics. There are Radiohead songs that I love, have listened to countless times, but couldn’t tell you two verses of lyrics with a gun to my head. This time around, likely inspired by Thom’s separation from his partner of 23 years Rachel Owen, the lyrics hold a greater amount of weight. Thom, and by extension the band, often operate from a safe distance but these songs feel different – more open, more specific – character traits that add significantly to their strength. The other big textural shift is Jonny Greenwood’s growth as a composer and the addition of the London Contemporary Orchestra on the majority of tracks. Radiohead are no strangers to the grand flourish of a string section but the contributions here are at times more subtle and more complete. The power that these musicians have to offer is better utilized within the landscape of a typical Radiohead song and sometimes, like with lead single “Burn the Witch”, built around that talent. Because many of the songs were plucked from different eras it may be the band’s least comprehensive album. The fact that the songs are organized alphabetically rather than to create a certain energy or tone may be their own acknowledgement of this. The album’s structure also has the fortunate consequence of making you want to reexamine their impressive back catalog, especially the b-sides, with fresh ears after you realize that a good idea or song owes no debt to a release date. Regardless of how you process the record, A Moon Shaped Pool is a rich, fulfilling experience and another impressive addition to their legendary discography.

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