By: Caroline Grand
With every great, career-changing album comes the redheaded stepchild of artistic success: the problem of setting the bar too high. We’ve seen it happen time and again with debut albums which will forever remain the best albums (see: Is This It) or with bands who, with one sub par release, banish themselves to the realm of nostalgia-listening (looking at you, MGMT and Modest Mouse.) Higher expectations, it seems, create greater room for disappointment.
Radiohead, with their peerless catalog of iconic and innovative albums, seems like a perfect candidate for such disappointment. A Moon Shaped Pool, released with limited fanfare and promotion this past May, will be held to a standard wholly unlike that of any of its contemporaries.
That being said, had A Moon Shaped Pool been released by any other artist, it would immediately be hailed as their best. From the lush melody of “Daydreaming” to the arrestingly eerie “Decks Dark” and “Ful Stop,” Radiohead’s latest release demonstrates a kind of meticulous care and attention to detail rarely found in today’s ethos of immediate gratification. There is something in A Moon Shaped Pool which is elusively beautiful and difficult to define, yet not a single moment feels underdeveloped or incomplete, as evidenced in how long tracks like “Burn The Witch” and “True Love Waits” have been in the works before their final arrangement. A Moon Shaped Pool is vulnerable and emotionally engaging without losing any intrigue in its honestly; it is a dark statement beneath a glimmering surface; it demands a second listen, and many more.
Is it Radiohead’s best album? In light of their previous work, it’s difficult to tell. But A Moon Shaped Pool is certainly Radiohead at their most complete and gorgeously human, and it more than meets the standards of its predecessors. Even with a remarkable career behind them, Radiohead shows no signs of burning out or falling into irrelevance; to demand “the best” now from a band with clearly still so much creative energy, actual and potential, would be a foolish request indeed.