LIKE BEING slapped in the face with a wet fish, Thom Yorke’s second solo LP Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes was a shock to everyone and came out of nowhere. Unlike being slapped in the face with a wet fish, this is a damn pleasant surprise. Eight years after the release of The Eraser, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes feels more closely linked to the work of Atoms for Peace than the likes of ‘Analyse’ and ‘Black Swan’. Yorke is obviously still trapped in the world of electronic music. While the music world revelled in the news that Radiohead were back in the studio, Yorke worked quietly away, building this.
The stripped back electronica trip hop like sound of Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is of course not a groundbreaking move in the world of music. Indeed, the music is not unlike that of FKA Twigs and her LP1. That’s not to say Yorke hasn’t made an enjoyable and deep album. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes may feel a little cold and electronic at times, yet Yorke’s trademark falsetto voice works marvellously well with the fragmented beats and blips that make up his songs.
Vocal techniques harking back to Amnesiac and The King of Limbs feature on opening track ‘A Brain in a Bottle’ while the softer ‘Nose Grows Some’ exhibits just how sublime Yorke can sound. Notable mentions go to the excellent ‘Guess Again!’ which features piano loops and electronic drum clicks, and the aptly named ‘There Is No Ice (For My Drink)’ which gives off a club-like vibe.
One interesting feature of the album is its release. Thom Yorke has been very critical of services such as Spotify and removed his solo material and material from Atoms for Peace from the streaming service recently. Let’s not forget the unconventional release of Radiohead’s In Rainbows and The King of Limbs. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes follows the trend, being released through BitTorrent, accompanied with a (slightly pretentious) statement from Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich. The release excellently reflects the electronic and digital nature of the music.
Of course, the album isn’t perfect. While a great chilled listen, it doesn’t do much to excite the senses as much as some of Yorke’s other work. Released so close to Atoms for Peace’s debut makes it almost feel like an addition to the band’s work, blurring any dividing line between the two. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy this album though. Thom Yorke does like to surprise his listeners and Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes successfully satisfies listeners since we were told Radiohead were back in the studio. Which now begs the question: Where will the group go from here?
You can follow Andrew on Twitter.