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Thom Yorke's 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes': A Track-By-Track Review

by Joey DeGroot   Sep 27, 2014 12:48 PM EDT

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Yesterday, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke revealed the true meaning behind his mysterious white record by releasing a new solo album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes through Bit Torrent (which you can download here). The album, Yorke's second solo effort, features eight tracks of typically abstract electronica and glitch-pop, which should come as no surprise to his diehard fans. Here's a track-by-track review of Yorke's surprise album:

1. Brain in a Bottle

A wobbly synth bass, falsetto vocals, and stuttering electronic drums: this is definitely Thom Yorke. "Brain in a Bottle" sets the album's subdued, unimposing atmosphere quite well, demonstrating that this is going to be an album of sonic exploration rather than hooks or danceable beats. This sounds like it would have been a Radiohead B-side during the Hail to the Thief era.

2. Guess Again!

Just as the last song sounded like a Radiohead B-side, the dark piano figure in "Guess Again!" gives it the aura of an Amnesiac era Radiohead track, such as "Pyramid Song," "How I Made My Millions," or "You and Whose Army?," though it's augmented with a crunchy drum machine beat and some pervasive electronic drones. The melody isn't anything to write home about, unfortunately, but this song still has some of the best production on Tomorrow's Modern Boxes.

3. Interference

Yorke gives the beats a rest for "Interference," which floats along with little more than some deliciously wobbly synth chords, electronic piano, and Yorke's vocals. Coming in at under three minutes, it's the second shortest song on the album, which was a wise decision, since a song this sleepy can't stay interesting for very long.

4. The Mother Lode

Nothing on Tomorrow's Modern Boxes can really be called a "pop" song, but the closest it comes is "The Mother Lode," which has the album's strongest melody (though that's not really saying anything, since none of the melodies on the album are very striking or memorable). For the first minute or so, the song's stuttering piano line comes off sounding like something Björk or Sigur Ros would have written (or Imogen Heap, as a friend pointed out), but once that off-kilter beat comes in, it's Thom Yorke all the way, though the production isn't as interesting as the first three tracks. Its six-minute running time doesn't help matters.

5. Truth Ray

Ringing in the album's more ambient second half (a nod to Bowie's Berlin period perhaps?) is "Truth Ray," which sounds more like one of those great Thom Yorke/Flying Lotus collaborations than a Thom Yorke solo track. It's driven by one of the least complicated beats on the album, but the best part is the way in which the synth continually fades in and out, as if it was recorded with a microphones spinning around in a circle. In the strangest way, this song is deeply reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar's "Sherane A.K.A. Master Splinter's Daughter." It's one of the album's best.

6. There is No Ice (For My Drink)

"There is No Ice (For My Drink)" isn't exactly an instrumental, but it might as well be, since the vocals are either wordless, indecipherable, or recorded backwards. This seems like the kind of track that Yorke enjoys making the most: a repetitive house track that gradually morphs over the course of seven minutes, with no elements of pop or rock music whatsoever. I hope one day he makes an entire album like this song.

7. Pink Section

"Pink Section" is basically the ambient, instrumental outro to "There is No Ice (For My Drink)," so thoughts on that song applies to this one as well. On an album made up entirely of strange songs, this is by far the strangest, and arguably the most beautiful, with piano tracks that sound like they were taken from tape loops found in a haunted house.

8. Nose Grows Some

Yorke's vocals return for the album's final track "Nose Grows Some," which if played on piano and an Ondes Martenot for a Radiohead album, would probably be considered a ballad. It ends the album with an air of poignancy found in no other track, and one of the album's strongest, sweetest melodies.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

-Like Radiohead's last album The King of Limbs, this is an album that needs to be heard on good headphones to be fully appreciated.
-Yorke seems to save all of his memorable melodies for Radiohead, unfortunately.
-The album's second half is better than the first, so if you're not immediately hooked, just hang tight.

RATING: 4/5

What did you think of Tomorrow's Modern Boxes? Let us know down in the comments section!

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