A Moon Shaped Pool – 5 Years Later

Words by Thomas-Bradey Riseley

A Moon Shaped Pool - Wikipedia

(sorry for the wait, the three of you that read my blog, I haven’t even been busy I’ve just been dealing with a lot. take this as my way of saying things are getting better. also this isn’t becoming a radiohead blog I promise).

Yes, I know. I’m a bit late on this one. I forgot it’s been 5 years since the last Radiohead record in all honesty. A recent relisten and purchase of the Record Store Day version of it inspired me to put digital pen to digital paper again.

On the 8th of May 2016 Radiohead released their ninth album, A Moon Shaped Pool. I am an unapologetic Radiohead superfan (if you couldn’t already tell) and it is with no shame that I declare AMSP one of the best the boys have ever made. The band, for the 9th time, take another different musical direction and strike gold. The album heavily leans on Jonny Greenwood’s gorgeous string arrangements and has a subtle kraut-rock flavour sprinkled throughout. Orchestration is no stranger to a Radiohead record with it featuring on some of their most heart-wrenching songs; How To Disappear Completely, Pyramid Song, Faust Arp, Codex etc and listening to it being fully utilised is bliss. While its common mood is elegance in sombre, it serves undeniable grooves on Ful Stop, Desert Island Disc and Present Tense.

The production is some of the cleanest they’ve ever had and aesthetically it’s their most understated and prettiest album (the Daydreaming video is a beautiful short film if you don’t pay attention to Thom’s outfit) Thematically the album addresses the loss of a significant relationship, on ‘Daydreaming’ particularly, which was a reality for Yorke who had divorced ex-wife Rachel Owen the year before. On ‘Burn The Witch, Yorke reawakens his Hail To The Thief era urgency and disgust at the state of geopolitical discourse and the song seems like a warning of what is to come (and credit where its due, he was spot on).

A popular criticism of AMSP is that its “11 unreleased Radiohead songs re-recorded and put in alphabetical order”. This may be true for a few tracks but this isn’t a new process for the band. A classic Radioheady slow-burner “Nude” from 2007’s In Rainbows was a track the band had been sitting on since the Ok Computer era. AMSP’s closer True Love Waits has been a regular at live shows since 1997 and versions of it can be found on their live album ‘I Might Be Wrong’ and their Ok Computer tour documentary ‘Meeting People Is Easy’ and it is the perfect way to close this luscious record. Whenever Radiohead decide enough is enough I hope people will give this the amount of respect and admiration given to Kid A, Ok Computer and In Rainbows because it more than deserves it.

There has been nothing released from Radiohead since AMSP but that hasn’t stopped any of the members from working. Thom Yorke has released his third solo album Anima, the soundtrack to the remake of 1970’s cult-horror classic Suspiria and a bizarre remix of the band’s love-to-hate classic “Creep”. Jonny Greenwood scored Phantom Thread and There Will Be Blood as well as debuting at 2019’s BBC Proms as well as debuting his new band ‘The Smile’ at Glastonbury’s “Live at Worthy Farm” livestream this year featuring Thom and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner. Ed O’Brien released his first solo record, the alt-rock banger ‘Earth’. The creative impetus that they still have is what keeps the anxiety of AMSP being the last Radiohead record at bay.

But if this is to be the last Radiohead album it’s a fitting way to bow out. It’s extremely rare that a band that had been together for 31 years (at the time of release) with no line-up changes or public breakups and has gone through so many overhauls of their sound can put together something that’s this consistent front to back and still sound so significant.

If this is the end, I’m ok with it.

The King of Limbs – The King of My Heart

Radiohead’s 8th full length album, The King Of Limbs, is misunderstood and understated. A lot of Radiohead fans give it too much unnecessary criticism based on the enormous difference in sound and technique it has to its predecessors. Most notably, the album prior in comparison to In Rainbows (which is considered one of the bands best releases, contending with Kid A and Ok Computer).

Having used sampling and looping technology to craft the album it has a messy, skiddish feel throughout. Having listened to it long after it’s initial release for the first time and having not labelled the Oxford oddballs on the pedestal of greatest band of all time, I can appreciate it for what it is, an experiment. Liam Gallagher kicked off in his increasingly boring boomer tennis umpire chair about this album “I heard that fucking Radiohead record and I just go, ‘What?!’ I like to think that what we do, we do fucking well. Them writing a song about a fucking tree? Give me a fucking break!“ But remind me Mr Gallagher when was the last time you did anything except bang a tambourine to Wonderwall or stand with your hands behind your back coughing your brother’s song out, loser.

I think why TKOL comes under so much flak is down to the fact that it’s not what anyone wanted or expected. Having followed the band for long enough I’ve learned not to expect anything because they always take the left turn and keep the world guessing. Having to follow In Rainbows is a tough enough task itself and being only 8 tracks long it doesn’t have the same impact or stature as its art-rock masterpiece predecessor.

But TKOL has it’s moments. Upon first listen I imagine fans would be sitting with headphones on listening to the swirling rubiks-cube of syncopated drums and looped instrumentation build and thinking “what the hell is this?” and I have so much respect for the band for putting Bloom first, its probably my favourite on the album. The first 4 tracks are reminiscent of the running order of Talking Head’s Remain In Light­ A punch-in-the-face beginning is danceable, groovy and confusing at the same time. Followed by two more perhaps more conventional tracks which are still head boppingly smooth, maybe the most Radioheady (that’s a new word I’m using in day-to-day language after writing this) in the album. The track Feral is, well, feral. Its animalistic, harsh, abrasive but still so fun to listen to and puts an end to an intense first 4 tracks. Lotus Flower kicks off part 2 and its without a doubt the easiest track to listen to on the album. Its smooth, like butter but if it someone was spreading a picture of butter that was sent via a fax machine. Codex and Give Up The Ghost are a much needed change of pace. Sprinkling in some of that sweet Radiohead misery into what is a hopeful and optimistic record. Finally, Separator is a fitting end. It’s dislocating drum-beat is attention-grabbing and Colin Greenwood’s less-is-more funk bass approach cuts through the drums with nuance and grace. At Thom’s warning of “If you think this is over then you’re wrong” the three guitars join in all three creating its own personal atmosphere at different levels of depth. I just love Separator so much.  

Only releasing one music video for the entire album was another bold choice but ties in with the subtlety and personality of the album. The bizarre virtuosic dance moves of the ever-groovy Thom Yorke to the slick bassline and perhaps the most-listenable drums of TKOL on Lotus Flower makes me want to get up and join in, every time.

I’ve listened to enough Radiohead to determine that this album features (as a whole album) Yorke’s best singing performance. Themes of nature and life and how beautiful it can be is a positive turn and one I really wanted to hear more of (5 years later they’d release the crushing A Moon Shaped Pool, but that’s for another day).

One thing I cant stand up for however is the TKOL RMX 1234567 album. I love the fact that one of Rock’s great bastions released a 19 track compilation of remixes of itself featuring; Jamie XX, Modeselektor, Four Tet and Lone but it falls flat on its face. Notable Thom Yorke collaborators such as Burial and Flying Lotus would’ve perhaps made a better crack of the whip but one can only dream. With fear of repeating myself too much the band never pretended it was going to be the next Kid A and fans need to use that in the context of their distain of the album which is why I don’t listen to it and just let it sleep quietly under the rug.

But if we had to endure the remix album to get The King Of Limbs: Live from The Basement it was well worth it. Thom Yorke admits during their #AtHomeWithMe live streamed desk audio concert series during lockdown 1 that he wasn’t sure that they would be able to pull this off. The Basement version is massively different and had the band employ a second drummer just to be able to perform the percussion loops in one performance (its worth noting that Selway chose the drum god Clive Deamer who is essentially a human 808). It fleshes out the robotic elements and sees each member bring their unique playing style to humanise TKOL. During this performance they throw in some of TKOL’s b-sides; The Daily Mail and Staircase arguably deserve a spot on the album proper.

At face value, The King Of Limbs IS at least good. If it was a first release for a smaller band that had just been signed it wouldn’t get half as much hate. It’s misunderstood and under-appreciated and deserves its seat at the Radiohead discography table. I would argue its better than the bloated and angry Hail To The Thief and not as lackluster as the 1-dimension The Bends.

I always root for the underdog, The King of Limbs, you’re the king of my heart.

Ariel Pink Dropped By Label After Attending Capitol Hill Siege

LDN Music Magazine

Words: Thomas-Bradey Riseley

Indie-pop musician Ariel Pink, real name Ariel Marcus Rosenborg, has been dropped by label Mexian Summer after admitting he was in attendance at the ‘rally’ which violently stormed Capitol Hill on the January 6.

Pink admits to being part of the large crowd which gathered for the Save America rally at the White House Ellipse but returned to his hotel before the march to the Capitol building and riot took place. Responding to criticism on Twitter, he said, “I was in DC to peacefully show my support for the President. I attended the rally on the White House lawn and went back to [the] hotel and took a nap. Case closed.” Several protestors were shot during the riot and at least one homemade explosive device was found in the grounds. Donald Trump’s encouragement and incitement of the mob has lead to complete shut-down of his social media…

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Lady Gaga set to perform at Joe Biden’s Inauguration

LDN Music Magazine

Pop megastar Lady Gaga is set to sing the US National Anthem at president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20. Gaga had campaigned alongside Joe Biden, performing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 2 at a Biden rally; Pennsylvania was one of the key swing states which helped Biden win the US election. On Twitter she said she was ‘deeply honoured to be joining @BidenInaugural’ after calling for Trump’s impeachment for inciting the Capitol Hill riots. 

The ‘Chromatica’ superstar will be joined by a Jennifer Lopez on the steps of Capitol Hill which still display the wounds of the attack on January 6. Tom Hanks will be hosting the show titled ‘Celebrating America’ with musical performances from…

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Spotify’s Algorithm Learns How to Listen

LDN Music Magazine

Words: Thomas-Bradey Riseley

Spotify’s ever-growing algorithm is soon going to sit down and listen, in the worst possible way. As if their 1’s and 0’s weren’t already scarily accurate with their suggestions by monitoring our listening patterns, they are now going to be using speech recognition to enhance the user experience.

In January 2021, Spotify was granted a patent for new personality tracking technology, something they had been waiting approval on since the application was filed in February 2018. The filing stated that demographics and their favourite type of music can be considered to “correspond to different personality traits” of each user. Its worth noting that they already had this information, your location and address and what you listen to already is contributed to the algorithm. Spotify has defended its new tech insinuating that it could promote even more personalised content to the user (mainly advertising content) but with their…

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Are some Genres are more ‘authentic’ than others?

Words by Thomas-Bradey Riseley

Authenticity is widely misunderstood for emotion in performance. There is no scientific factor which makes one genre more authentic than the other. Authentic, by definition, is “of undisputed origin, and not a copy; genuine.” While some genres of music deliver more emotive and humanised performances, they cant be considered authentic and genuine if they aren’t 100% original like niche sub-genres and sub-cultures of music. This report will delve deeper into these and separate authenticity with emotional connection.

A study into music psychology and music authenticity at Yale University splits authenticity into two types; type authenticity and expressive authenticity and you can read it here.

Type Authenticity is the evaluation as to whether something is true to its category. Yale use the example of a Ming Dynasty vase, it can only be a Ming Dynasty vase if it fulfills certain characteristics. If a punk song has hard thrashing guitar leads and yelled vocals of refuting establishment and rebelling then it is true to its genre, no matter how ‘mainstream’ it can be – something of which punk stands firmly against. The same goes for Pop music. If a Pop song is catchy, easy to listen to and gets lots of radio play it qualifies to be authentic to the Pop genre. When one claims a Ming vase is not a Ming vase, it fails to meet the criteria needed to be a Ming vase and isn’t a Ming vase at all. If you claim a song isn’t a rock song, you claim the song doesn’t belong to the rock genre at all.

Expressive Authenticity is defined to be “the true expression of an individual’s or culture’s values and beliefs”. It is defined to be; “To phrase the concept colloquially, a true scientist is someone who embodies what science is all about. Broadly speaking, a true scientist really wants to get at the bottom of things, looks for empirical data, and revises old beliefs in light of new evidence. This notion of the true scientist is quite different from being a good scientist.” To be a ‘true musician’ and to define expressive authenticity is to create an art which can be emotionally evocative and enjoyable to listen to, in any sense.

A noise artist, such as Merzbow, who often gets vilified for making what can literally only be described as harsh noise, can be deemed authentic in both senses of the word. The music he creates is definitely noise and he is a true musician. He creates something genuinely unique and something people authentically connect with. Plus noise music, white noise in particular, can be soothing for people with autism who suffer with sensory overload. Even if one is to refute the fact that noise music can be authentic, making it this practical confirms its authenticity beyond reasonable doubt.

Sub-genres can be held responsible for blurring the lines between whats considered an authentic genre. Because rock music has been at the precipice of music popularity for so many years they have suffered with thousands of sub-genres and cultures. British ‘rock’ band black midi who released their first album Schlagenheim in 2019 have successfully blended; noise, math, experimental, black, kraut and alternative rock. Classic rock music fans would not appreciate or recognise black midi as standalone rock music despite it falling under the span of sub-genres under rock. This does not mean it is any less authentic than; Appetite For Destruction, Master Of Puppets, Nevermind and Ok Computer.

Covers can be considered authentic too, while not being 100% original. After Johnny Cash covered ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor admitted after watching the powerful and significant video for Johnny Cash’s version “that song isn’t mine anymore”. Covers themselves can be transcomposed to better suit the artist and their style. Kelly Lee Owens’ cover of Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ is a completely electronic cover that de-instrumentalises the song’s arpeggiated guitar ensemble with no lyrics. It takes a song and crosses it into a new genre and new style to make it a completely different song.

I don’t think one genre can be considered more authentic than others. So long as the genre is true to the category it falls in and at least one person connects with it on a personal and emotional level. If a genre is labelled to be inauthentic or bland and generic, one needs to give it context and background or the music is then lost on basic listening.

Here find a playlist of my favourite covers:

This Year’s Grammy Nominations: What The AF Is Going On?

LDN Music Magazine

Words by Thomas Bradey-Riseley

After what’s been a turbulent 2020, the Grammys have named their best and the rest yesterday (November 14). While not short of surprises in its 61-year existence – there usually are a few ‘wtf?’ moments – some snubs and acknowledgements are more significant this time round.

The Weeknd hasn’t received a single nomination. He had the biggest charting hit of the year with Blinding Lights. He is due to play the Superbowl half time show the Sunday after the Grammys (February 7) and led almost all industry expert-predictions. It’s an important and surprising omission but not more so than other shocks such as: Rina Sawayama’s self-titled not receiving a nod, Kanye West being placed in a Christian category after he posted a video of him urinating on one of his Grammys earlier this year, and Poppy’s nomination for Best Metal Performance.

The Grammys constantly trip themselves…

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K-Pop Superstars BTS can delay military service after new law passed

LDN Music Magazine

Words: Thomas-Bradey Riseley 

K-Pop stans can breathe a deep sigh of relief – for now.

The K-Pop world was rocked recently when hearing the news that BTS, arguably the biggest boy band in the world, would have to disband temporarily to enlist for South Korea’s mandatory military service. The bands’ varying age range – 23-28 years old – means that they reach the threshold for enlisting at different times. The law previously stated that all able-bodied men in the country would have to serve in the military for 18 months by the time they are 28. BTS’s oldest member, Jin, turns 28on Friday December 12 and would’ve had until December 31 to enlist. The new law defers the age limit to 30.

Up to now, the law allowed exemptions for top artists athletes and musicians; Tottenham Hotspurs’ Son Heung-Min is exempt due to his display as captain of the South…

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