Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool

1035x1035-radiohead-new-album-a-moon-shaped-pool-download-stream-640x640Radiohead’s first new album since 2011’s The King of Limbs is both dazzling and extraordinary. It’s been a long time coming. Back in October of last year people started speculating that a new Radiohead album was in the works when the band created a new company, Dawn Chorus LLP, something they had done before independently releasing both In Rainbows and The King of Limbs. In February, they established a second company, Dawnnchoruss Ltd., which suggested to fans that the new album was imminent. And then finally, on May 8 (Mother’s Day), after a short rollout with two singles released in the previous week, they gave us A Moon Shaped Pool.

A Moon Shaped Pool is quite different from the Radiohead albums we’ve become accustomed to since the early 2000’s—post-Kid A. In many ways it’s a return to the earlier stuff, and particularly the Kid A sessions, which produced both Kid A and the following year’s Amnesiac. For one, this album is bookended by two songs that have been floating around and teased by the band for over a decade: the unsettling and politically timely “Burn the Witch,” and the heartbreaking “True Love Waits,” which first appeared on 2001’s I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. “Identikit” is another rarity that the band have been playing live for a number of years, and is a definite stand-out. However, there are lots of great new songs here as well that fit seamlessly together with the older stuff.

This album all but abandons the drum machines and electronic music that Thom Yorke was beginning to gravitate towards on Hail to the ThiefIn Rainbows, and, most notably, The King of Limbs, as well as his solo albums The Eraser and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and his Atoms for Peace project with Flea, which released their debut album, Amok, in 2013. Instead, it’s a return to the earlier, more guitar-based music of the Kid A sessions and the even earlier albums that made Radiohead the biggest band to emerge out of the 90s. In December 2015, Thom Yorke played an acoustic concert for Pathway to Paris, a climate change benefit held at Le Trianon, at which he showcased the new direction with acoustic performances of “Desert Island Disk” and “Silent Spring” from the new album, perhaps its most powerful new song, which has since been renamed “The Numbers.”

The performances at Le Trianon also showed us a more political Yorke, and one who has perhaps finally found his cause: climate change. The father and musician got emotional talking about his son asking him about global warming and what he feels is his responsibility to the planet and to future generations. “Silent Spring,” which appears as “The Numbers” on A Moon Shaped Pool, is a kind of folk-protest song in the vein of Patti Smith, taking the line “People have the power” and giving it a new significance for the modern crises facing us in 2016. The orchestral arrangements on the album version give it an even greater power, as the strings grow in intensity alongside the track’s most inspiring call-to-action lines. “The numbers don’t decide / Your system is a lie” sings Yorke in a moment of clarity, a rallying cry against the lobbyists and special interest groups that currently control the political system.

A Moon Shaped Pool is perhaps Radiohead’s most ambitious album to date, coalescing songs that have been floating in the ether for more than a decade with new and politically-informed material. What’s striking about it is the way it harnesses the old and the new to create something that’s both timely and socially conscious as well as deeply personal and intimate; reviewers have already speculated that the inclusion of “True Love Waits” as the album’s conclusion is a result of Yorke’s recent divorce, and that he’s laying it all bare for us here—although in typical Radiohead-fashion it’s through a cryptic reference in a 15-year-old song. However, A Moon Shaped Pool is noticeably darker than Yorke’s most recent solo work, a fact Nigel Godrich was alluding to when he suggested that part of his soul lives in it as a result of his father’s recent passing.

It’s a difficult album to listen to at times—both emotionally raw and deeply complex. There are vocal parts played backwards, massive orchestras and choirs, and hidden references for fans that know the back catalogue inside out. But as always, it’s worth the time getting to know, as an increasingly rare release from what remains the most exciting band in the world. On A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead remind us of how they got there, and lend their uniquely political voice to a challenging and uncertain time, and the result is both unsettling and deeply cathartic.

Revisit “Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., and the Politicization of Popular Music,” which features Thom Yorke, here.

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Radiohead: “Burn the Witch”

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After a lot of waiting, Radiohead have finally released new music. “Burn the Witch” is the first single from their upcoming album (which has been rumoured to be coming in June). The track has been teased by the band for more than a decade. Last week, fans in the UK received mysterious leaflets in the mail that said “Sing the song of sixpence that goes / Burn the witch / We know where you live,” the final lines from the song. Over the weekend, Radiohead’s Facebook and Twitter accounts began to disappear, profile pictures and cover photos being replaced by blank images. Their website slowly faded until it too was completely blank. Last night, a teaser appeared on their Instagram of a claymation bird, and then this morning we got a full video to accompany the release of the song.

“Burn the Witch” is a churning, building, absolutely massive Radiohead song. Backed by an orchestral string arrangement, the heavy bass line when it comes in allows Thom Yorke’s voice to take flight. “This is a low-flying panic attack,” he sings before the song’s ominous chorus: “Burn the witch / Burn the witch / We know where you live.” The song’s political undertones are evident in lines such as “Do not react / Shoot the messengers,” and interestingly, the ‘witch’ burned in the video is a man with a notebook who has come to inspect the claymation town. Johnny Greenwood’s impressive arrangement (he’s been performing with symphony orchestras for the last few years) alongside Yorke’s impeccable songwriting reaches its startling conclusion as the song escalates into noise—something Radiohead have always been good at—as the ‘witch’ in the video is set ablaze.

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Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., and the Politicization of Popular Music

Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., and the Politicization of Popular Music

Police harassment leads to crowd singing Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”

2015 was arguably the year of music as political protest. The fact that there are still people out on the streets in some parts of the U.S. chanting “We gon’ be alright” in solidarity with the victims of police brutality is a testament to the power of music to enact social change. Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” has become an anthem for the anti-police movement in the United States in large part because it speaks to the universal. In a world of global terrorism, growing concerns about climate change, and systematic racial violence against minorities and people of color, we need music to express those fears and to stand in solidarity against them. Perhaps this is one reason why albums such as Run the Jewels’ RTJ2, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, and J. Cole’s 2014 Forrest Hills Drive became so popular in 2015—all albums released at the end of last year that seem to anticipate the radical formal experimentation and political message taken up by Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and the slew of popular “gangsta” rap albums in 2015 that include Joey Bada$$’s B4.DA.$$$, Dr. Dre’s Compton, and Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06.

However, the politicization of music in 2015 extends further to white artists and bands such as the brilliantly-named The War on Drugs, whose highly acclaimed 2014 album Lost in the Dream reached a wider audience this year with its nostalgic 70s-rock sound that has experienced a revival in the last few years with artists like Kurt Vile, Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco, and the Eagles of Death Metal—who gained notoriety in the last few weeks as they were the band playing when the Bataclan was stormed by terrorists that killed more than 120 people in Paris last month. The 70s-rock revival movement that has gained wider popularity in the last year is arguably a result of a desire for peace and reconciliation in the wake of some of the events of recent years that mirrors the sense of a dream of peace that was alive in the 1970s as a result of the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement in the U.S., and other events that shaped the 60s and 70s and the politically-charged music that we tend to associate with those decades.

The expression of political popular music is something that extends to today, as well, with the rise of electronic music and the female auteur, such as M.I.A., the Sri-Lankan born daughter of a political activist who blends Eastern and Western influences in her work. Earlier this week, she dropped a brand new song called “Borders,” which critiques the Western response to the Syrian refugee crisis and has been talked about by Pitchfork in an article called “How M.I.A. Is a Lifeline in Times of Terror.” Revisiting her earlier music, it is worth noting that although political themes underpin much of her work, M.I.A. has never been this overtly political before. In the video for “Borders,” she travels on boats with refugees and poses on barbed wire fences and atop CCTV cameras, while dropping lines like “Borders / What’s up with that?” and “Politics / What’s up with that?”

M.I.A represents pop’s politicization in recent years and can be compared with other women artists making bold statements about pop this year, such as Grimes, Bjork, and FKA twigs.

Bjork is perhaps the most political of the three in her activism for the environment and recent call for global action to save Iceland’s highlands. Artists like David Bowie, Damon Albarn, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Phil Selway, and Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are now urging world leaders to reach a deal on climate change at the current UN conference in Paris. Last week, Thom Yorke and Flea played Yorke’s “Atoms for Peace” on “Le Grand Journal,” where they also sat down to talk about climate change and politics. This weekend, Yorke, Flea, Patti Smith and more played at the Pathway to Paris concert at Le Trianon. The world’s music leaders are urging people to pressure their governments and ensure that the politicians reach some kind of meaningful agreement at the Paris conference, and are leading a political revival of music as a result. However, their messages all seem to be ones of peace and resolution and can only serve to unify people. In the words of Kendrick Lamar, we gon’ be alright.

Ryan Hemsworth Shares Digital Box Set ‘Hemsworth Country’ Via BitTorrent

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Following suit from Thom Yorke, Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth has shared a digital box set of his entire discography called Hemsworth Country as a BitTorrent Bundle. The compilation includes 2011’s Distorted with rapper Shady Blaze and 2013’s Still Awake EP, available as a free download here. That’s the album art above.

The release comes a week before Hemsworth’s Alone for the First Time, out November 4. Watch the video for the Dawn Golden-featuring “Snow in Newark” below:

Thom Yorke Releases Surprise Album ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ via BitTorrent

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Thom Yorke has released a new album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. The album is only available as a BitTorrent Bundle here. Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich explained why the album is only being distributed by BitTorrent in the following letter:

As an experiment we are using a new version of BitTorrent to distribute a new Thom Yorke record.

The new Torrent files have a pay gate to access a bundle of files..

The files can be anything, but in this case is an ‘album’.

It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around …

If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work.

Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves.

Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers.

If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done.

The torrent mechanism does not require any server uploading or hosting costs or ‘cloud’ malarkey.

It’s a self-contained embeddable shop front…

The network not only carries the traffic, it also hosts the file. The file is in the network.

Oh yes and it’s called

Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.

Thom Yorke & Nigel Godrich

Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes:

01 A Brain in a Bottle
02 Guess Again!
03 Interference
04 The Mother Lode
05 Truth Ray
06 There Is No Ice (For My Drink)
07 Pink Section
08 Nose Grows Some

Rumours have also speculated that a new Radiohead album is in the works.