The Endless River is the fifteenth and final studio album by the English rock band Pink Floyd, released in November 2014 by Parlophone Records in the United Kingdom and Columbia Records in the United States. Following The Division Bell (1994), it is the third Pink Floyd album recorded under the leadership of guitarist David Gilmour after the departure of Roger Waters in 1985, and the first following the death of keyboardist Rick Wright in 2008, who appears posthumously. Gilmour said he was "pretty certain" it would be the final Pink Floyd album.
The Endless River was promoted with the "Louder than Words" single and artwork installations in cities including London, New York, Paris, Berlin, and Milan. It became the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK, and debuted at number one in several countries. The vinyl edition was the fastest-selling UK vinyl release since 1997. The album received mixed reviews.
Pink Floyd's fourteenth studio album, The Division Bell (1994), was recorded in 1993 and 1994 in Britannia Row Studios in London and on the Astoria boat studio belonging to guitarist David Gilmour. According to keyboardist Richard Wright, Pink Floyd recorded "five or six" hours of unreleased music during the sessions. Engineer Andy Jackson edited the material, described by Mason as ambient music, to an hour-long composition tentatively titled The Big Spliff, but the band decided not to release it. Wright died of cancer on 15 September 2008 at the age of 65.
Drummer Nick Mason (left) and guitarist David Gilmour (right) took up the project in 2013, intending to create "a 21st-century Pink Floyd album".
In 2012, Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason decided to revisit the recordings to make a new album. Gilmour said: "We've added new parts, re-recorded others and generally harnessed studio technology to make a 21st-century Pink Floyd album. With Rick gone, and with him the chance of ever doing it again, it feels right that these revisited and reworked tracks should be made available as part of our repertoire." Only a small part from The Big Spliff was used.
Gilmour asked guitarist and producer Phil Manzanera, who played on and co-produced his 2006 solo album On an Island, to work on the material. Manzanera, Jackson and engineer Damon Iddins spent six weeks assembling four 14-minute pieces. Gilmour gave two pieces to producer Youth, who added guitar and bass parts. In November 2013, Gilmour led sessions with Manzanera, Youth and Jackson to record material with Mason, saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and bassist Guy Pratt. Backing vocalists including Durga McBroom recorded parts and Gilmour recorded lead vocals on "Louder than Words", with lyrics by his wife, author Polly Samson. Bassist and songwriter Roger Waters, who left Pink Floyd in 1985, was not involved.
"Autumn '68", named in reference to the earlier Floyd song "Summer '68" from Atom Heart Mother, features a recording of Wright playing the Royal Albert Hall's pipe organ during the rehearsal for a show on June 26, 1969. The track also has keyboards added by Iddins. Mason stated that unreleased sessions Wright recorded for Gilmour's solo projects could appear on Gilmour's future solo albums. "Talkin' Hawkin'" contains a sample of scientist Stephen Hawking's speech taken from a British Telecom commercial; the same commercial had been sampled for The Division Bell on "Keep Talking".The Endless River is the first Pink Floyd studio album since The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) for which Mason received writing credits, for "Sum", and "Skins", a two-and-a-half-minute drum solo. Gilmour said that he was "pretty certain" that The Endless River would be the final Pink Floyd album.
The Endless River comprises four pieces that form a continuous flow of mostly ambient and instrumental music. Gilmour told Mojo: "Unapologetically, this is for the generation that wants to put its headphones on, lie in a beanbag, or whatever, and get off on a piece of music for an extended period of time. You could say it’s not for the iTunes, downloading-individual-tracks generation." Mason described the album as a tribute to Wright: "I think this record is a good way of recognising a lot of what he does and how his playing was at the heart of the Pink Floyd sound. Listening back to the sessions, it really brought home to me what a special player he was."
"Louder Than Words" is the only track with a lead vocal. Samson wrote the lyrics after observing the band's interaction during the rehearsals for their 2005 Live 8 reunion, their first performance with Waters in over 24 years. She said: "What struck me was, they never spoke ... It’s not hostile, they just don’t speak. And then they step onto a stage and musically that communication is extraordinary."
The album title is taken from a lyric (itself a reference to the band's second single, the Syd Barrett composition "See Emily Play") on the last track of The Division Bell, "High Hopes": "The water flowing / The endless river / For ever and ever." Gilmour said the lyric suggested "some sort of continuum" connecting the two records, since they came from the same sessions.
The Endless River cover art depicts a young man punting a Thames skiff across a sea of clouds towards the sun.After the death of longtime Pink Floyd artist Storm Thorgerson in 2013, Pink Floyd collaborated with Aubrey Powell, co-founder of Thorgeson's design company Hipgnosis. Powell discovered 18-year-old Egyptian artist Ahmed Emad Eldin and asked to use the concept from his piece Beyond the Sky for The Endless River. Eldin was a Pink Floyd fan and accepted enthusiastically. Powell felt Ahmed's concept had "an instant Floydian resonance", and described it as "enigmatic and open to interpretation". The final cover is a recreation of Eldin's work by London design firm Stylorouge. Powell felt that the cover summed up the album's title and music, and was appropriate for the recording on the Thames.
The Endless River was also released in boxed DVD and Blu-ray "deluxe" editions, containing a 24-page hardback book, postcards, and a bonus disc of three additional tracks and six music videos. Two tracks, "TBS9" and "TBS14", are outtakes from the abandoned Big Spliff project. The DVD edition includes the album in Dolby Digital and DTS5.1 surround sound, plus a 48 kHz /24 bit stereo version. The Blu-ray has DTS Master Audio and PCM, 96/24 5.1 surround and a PCM stereo 96/24 version.
Several art installations, such as this one in South Bank, London, were placed around the world in promotion of The Endless River.
The Endless River is the second Pink Floyd album distributed by Parlophone, following the release of the 20th anniversary editions of The Division Bell earlier in 2014. The Division Bell, along with subsequent live and compilation albums, were previously published by EMI in Europe and Sony counterpart Columbia Records for the rest of the world.
Pink Floyd were affected by the sale of EMI to the Universal Music Group, which lasted from 2011 to 2013. The European Commission and the Federal Trade Commission approved the sale with conditions, including the sale of certain EMI assets. Pink Floyd, along with many other bands under the EMI roster, were transferred to different labels during the process. The Parlophone Label Group was formed under Parlophone as one of many assets to be sold off by Universal following the acquisition of EMI, with Pink Floyd transferred to the Parlophone Label Group during the sale. The Warner Music Group, in 2013, struck a deal with Universal to buy the Parlophone label Group from EMI, acquiring publishing rights to Pink Floyd's back catalog and future releases in the process.
In a tweet on 5 July 2014, Samson released the album title and a projected release window of October 2014 to pre-empt a tabloid newspaper report. The announcement was followed by backing vocalist Durga McBroom posting a photo of her alongside Gilmour in the recording studio. Details about The Endless River were announced on Pink Floyd's website on 7 July.
Pink Floyd and Parlophone formally unveiled The Endless River on 22 September 2014, including the release date, artwork and track listing, accompanied by a promotional website, a hyperstitial for the official Pink Floyd website. The site featured an artist's statement, photographs from The Division Bell sessions, pre-order details and two teasers, one featuring a 30-second snippet of the album's second track, "It's What We Do", and a television advertisement, featuring the album's geometric-based artwork.pre-orders for the album on physical and digital formats started the same day. Prominent installations of the album's artwork were placed around the world, including a four-sided 8m tall billboard placed in South Bank, London, and large-scale poster advertisements in cities such as Berlin, Paris, Los Angeles, Milan, New York and Sydney.
The album's only single, "Louder than Words", premiered on Chris Evans' breakfast show on BBC Radio 2 as a shortened radio edit. Gilmour and Mason appeared in an interview for BBC Radio 6 Music to promote the album and to discuss Wright's contributions. The track "Allons-y (1)" was made available to download from the iTunes Store on 4 November 2014. In the week before release, The Endless River became the most pre-ordered album in Amazon UK's history; the following week, the record was broken by Take That's III. There was no Endless River tour, as Gilmour said it was impossible without Wright.
Ludovic Hunter-Tilney of the Financial Timespraised the album's nostalgic "Floydian" sound, reminiscent of Pink Floyd's work prior to The Wall, and wrote: "How fitting that a band so accustomed to loss should close their account with an engrossing elegy to their own past." Cameron Cooper of The Music gave the album three and a half out of five, writing that it felt "less like a swansong and more like a final homage ... the lack of vocals (save for the album’s closing track) gives the music more freedom, allowing it to speak for itself". In The Guardian, Alexis Petridis described it as "not a new album from an extant band, but an echo from the past – or a last, warm but slightly awkward group hug ... on those terms, it works just fine," and praised the lead single and final track "Louder than Words" as "stately, poignant and open-hearted". In Rolling Stone, David Fricke wrote:"Wright was the steady, binding majesty in the Floyd's explorations. This album is an unexpected, welcome epitaph."The Observer wrote that the album is "an understated affair but unmistakably the Floyd ... a pretty good way to call it a day."
J.C. Maçek III of PopMatters wrote: "Without the vocals, something is very clearly missing and the listener is left wanting more. While this makes for a good album, The Endless River is not quite fitting to serve as the final album of the greatest rock band of their kind, to say nothing of one of the greatest rock bands of any kind ever to perform." Andy Gill of The Independent called it "just aimless jamming, one long thread of Dave Gilmour's guitar against Rick Wright's pastel keyboards and Nick Mason's tentative percussion, with nary a melody of any distinction alighted upon for the duration .... without the sparking creativity of a Syd or Roger, all that's left is ghastly faux-psychedelic dinner-party muzak." The NME wrote that The Endless River was "a collection of spruced-up outtakes ... On those limited terms it works well enough, and it's interesting from a certain geeky perspective, but it's never quite as satisfying or substantial as you want it to be."Pitchfork wrote that The Endless River "is quintessentially and self-consciously Pink Floyd, for better or for worse ... it proves to be one of the few Pink Floyd releases that sounds like a step backwards, with nothing new to say and no new frontiers to explore." Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times called it "so excruciatingly dull (even by Pink Floyd's often-dull standards) that the band's name on the cover feels like a straight-up bait-and-switch".
In the week before its release, The Endless River displaced Fourby One Direction as the most pre-ordered album of all time on Amazon UK. It debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart, with sales totaling 139,351 the third highest opening sales week of 2014, making it Pink Floyd's sixth UK number one. As of 27 November 2014, the vinyl edition had sold 6,000 copies, making it the fastest-selling UK vinyl release of 2014 and the fastest-selling since 1997. The album also debuted at number one in several other countries, including France, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, and Canada. In the US, it debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200 with 170,000 copies sold in its first week; by January 2015, it had sold 355,000 copies there. Worldwide, The Endless River sold over 2.5 million copies in 2014.
^"Czech Albums – Top 100". ČNS IFPI. Note: On the chart page, select 201446 on the field besides the word "Zobrazit", and then click over the word to retrieve the correct chart data. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
^"Guld- och Platinacertifikat" (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Retrieved 12 February 2019. Type Pink Floyd in the top right search bar. Click on "Sok" and select "Visa" under The Endless River to see certification.