Pink Floyd is one of those bands that will be remembered forever. That’s not just because its greatest album, Dark Side of the Moon, is the album to be on Billboard for 741 weeks, the longest in music history. It’s because its music forever changed the industry and redefined what rock music could be. While not everything Pink Floyd made was great, some of its best work is not just some of the greatest rock, but among the greatest music in general.
Pink Floyd released 15 studio albums over the course of almost 30 years, but the band dissolved in 1994 after releasing two albums without co-founder Roger Waters. Out of nowhere, a new album was announced album, The Endless River, was to be released in late 2014 using extra material from their 20-year-old jam sessions recorded during their previous album, and as a partial tribute to keyboardist Richard Wright, who passed away in 2008. This album is not only a reminder of what Pink Floyd was, but also a fantastic work in its own right.
The album’s title couldn’t be any more accurate, as the primarily instrumental music flows like a river, each song seamlessly blending into the next, one not standing out more than any other. It is divided into four sides, the same way as two vinyl records, and each side, consists of various songs, but the songs in this case are more like movements in a larger orchestration than an individual composition. The music itself is pure atmosphere. The album doesn’t ever rock too hard, preferring to be more peaceful and relaxing in nature and tone, but it is an incredible listen. The level of musicianship makes it difficult to believe that everything in this release is leftovers.
But even more incredible is the fact that this album is not just a great piece of art, it also is a love letter to listeners of Pink Floyd’s previous work, whether more traditional and rock-like or more artsy. “Allons-y,” part of the third side, takes clear elements from its more traditional rock roots, using a traditional setup of lead and rhythm guitars, bass and drums, with occasional keyboard thrown in, calling back to albums like The Wall. Immediately after, the song changes into “Autumn ’68,” which features organ and keyboard and excludes percussion, taking the song away from the rock elements before picking things back up and reprising “Allons-y” again. This back-and forth with different styles, instrumentations and genres, make this album sound more sophisticated than many prior albums.
After almost 50 minutes of atmospheric wonder and awe, vocals begin to fade in, with faint tones getting louder and louder, leading into “Louder Than Words,” the final and only vocal track on the entire album. The impact of David Gilmour’s vocals after being silent for so long is simply staggering.
This album is not by any means the best release of the year — in fact, it isn’t even close — but it is one of the most important. It not only shows what two (of the original four) musical geniuses can do with decades-old material, but that music is a lot more than catchy guitar riffs and easy-to-remember vocals. Music can paint a picture, it can tell a story and it can flow like an endless river.