Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is easily the best Radiohead-related release since In Rainbows. Although I wasn’t as down on King of Limbs as most detractors, Atoms For Peace’s AMOK was a relative disappointment. 2006’s The Eraser was Yorke’s first official solo effort and was surprisingly effective as a stripped down laptop record. If a comparison needed to be made, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes follows more closely in the vein of The Eraser than anything else. It’s another minimalist collection of beat-driven tracks that rely heavily on the Radiohead frontman’s well-known falsetto. The 46-year old Yorke has absolutely nothing to prove, but his vocals on TMB are a welcomed return to that soulful melancholia found on In Rainbows tracks like “Nude” and “Reckoner.”
That’s where any comparison to Radiohead ends abruptly. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is a glitchy electronic album devoid of guitar. Yorke’s signature piano chords are used sparingly on tracks like “Guess Again!” and “Pink Section,” and the piano on the latter is even disguised behind heavily processed effects. Standout track “Truth Ray” features Yorke’s most personal lyrics on the album over a haunting, pulsating synth and trip hop backbeat. Yorke’s manipulation of a voice sample toward the end of the track is one of many high points on the record. “Nose Grows Some” is another standout and perfect album closer. It starts with a cold and distorted effect over a repetitive beat and what sounds like a vinyl crackle sample being used to compose a cross-beat. A slow oscillating synth slowly builds, Yorke begins to ambiguously croon, and the track transitions from frigid and uninviting to warm and seductive. Yorke is experimenting again with how his music is distributed and released the album on BitTorrent for $6. With well over 1 million downloads already, it’s safe to say the model is worth looking into. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is undoubtedly one of our favorite albums of 2014.