Out of nowhere, Thom Yorke dropped a second solo album today. After teasing his sizable fanbase with an enigmatic picture of a white vinyl record on Twitter a few days ago and updating the band’s Polyfauna app with new music earlier this month, we got the full album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes today.
Like most of Thom Yorke’s solo work, this album consists mainly of glitchy electronic tracks played under Thom Yorke’s mumbling and crooning. The whole affair seems rather low-key and laid back. These songs do not emulate the nervous energy that characterizes much of Radiohead’s work or the songs from Atoms For Peace. Instead, the beats softly flow into each other and are more interested in mood setting than energy instilling. Most of the time, this works really well, but gets a little tiresome during the last third of the album, which just consists of instrumental beat tracks. They are not exactly thrilling in their own right, and are a waste of ten minutes on an already short album. Other than that, the album works nicely.
It is nice to see Thom Yorke explore a more mellow side, but like his solo album Eraser, this feels like a side project for Radiohead. The songs on this album do not stop you in your tracks like the songs from Thom Yorke’s other bands. However, they are inviting and grow with multiple listens. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes creates an other-worldly atmosphere that is interesting and abstract. Like the band’s app Polyfauna (which had many of the beats from this album as background music), Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is more about exploring your own mind instead of having your thoughts directed in the way that the band wants.
Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes will not make any new converts to Thom Yorke or Radiohead, but it is a nice treat for loyal fans. As hype begins to build around Radiohead’s ninth studio album (they expected to be in the studio this month), albums like this and Phil Selway’s Weatherhouse are enough to show that even twenty years into their career, Radiohead has enough musical talent to spare.