Review Summary: A subtle album with rewarding moments and an enveloping atmosphere that come alive more and more upon repeated listens.
Among news of a new Radiohead album after almost four years, the sudden release of a solo album by lead singer Thom Yorke is a strange move, though not especially surprising. The Radiohead frontman has for the most part maintained an enigmatic public image for an international music star. His preferred musical style is made apparent on 2006’s The Eraser
, which not surprisingly echoed many aspects of Radiohead’s more experimental releases. His debut was a downtempo affair with a consistent style of IDM and electronic experiments. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
continues in a similar vein, except with an even more elusive personality and devoid of catchy hooks or accessible hits. Yorke has opted for a consistent tone with cold ambiance and varied percussion with just enough intrigue to remain interesting from beginning to end.
was released eight years ago, and while the main ideas present haven’t changed a whole lot with this follow-up, it sounds more minimalist and provokes a similar atmosphere as Radiohead outings Amnesiac
and Hail to the Thief
. Much of …Boxes
resembles the stranger moments from those albums than what are considered the fan favorites like “Pyramid Song” and “There There.” An absence of hooks or catchy melodies is a bold decision for an artist to make, but Yorke commits to the vision and uses his songwriting talents to make a stark, engaging enough album that stamps his own identity in the IDM genre.
An almost psychedelic style to …Boxes
contributes to how the production manipulates the various sounds and melodies into a kind of abstract place at times. However the album remains grounded enough to not become lost in its own atmospheres. “Pink Section” and “Interference” are both brief, cold, ambient pieces with a flair of mystery. One might think the track listing could have been ordered a bit differently, as the three most hypnotic tracks, all longer than five minutes, each come one after the other. The momentum does not make for a logical or easy listening experience, but the loose and intangible nature of …Boxes
is able to justify itself. The gratifying weirdness of Yorke’s songwriting decisions have enough personality, along with the presence of his excellent singing voice, to make for a worthwhile listening experience on multiple levels.
Despite the detached, robotic aesthetic, there are beautiful moments aplenty in Yorke’s latest. “Nose Grows Some” is probably the most emotive song of all his solo material, conjuring some of the vulnerable spirit from the electronic side of Radiohead. “Interference” and “The Mother Lode” possess beautiful synth melodies and mystery, both album highlights. Thom Yorke leaves room for more growth in future releases, taking his songwriting to eerier places while not straying too far from the styles of The Eraser
and his recent supergroup, Atoms for Peace. His singing voice and unique vision make Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
a subtle yet rewarding release, conjuring distant, alien atmospheres that reveal more and more depth upon repeated listens.