Thom Yorke is at a stage in his career where he’d rather innovate with distribution methods than music. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, his second solo set, is the first record to be sold through BitTorrent, but its sound isn’t as future-forward.
The songs lie somewhere between Yorke’s first solo odyssey outside of Radiohead, 2006’s The Eraser (brittle, grayscale), and his 2013 release with supergroup Atoms for Peace, Amok (richer, fleshed out). It’s easy to imagine them slotting in nicely on the latter, brought to full strength by the addition of a Flea bassline or a secondary synth; cool and spare, the lesser tracks feel like glorified sketches.
Here, Yorke employs a base set of themes and tones that remain distinctive, beginning with his voice — still supple and agile, a ghost trapped inside his bedroom machines — and his hallmark rhythm programming and techno-paranoia. When all those elements come together, they yield some of the best moments, blending the synthetic and natural on “A Brain in a Bottle” and “The Mother Lode.” Others, like “Interference” and “Truth Ray,” meander and stab blindly at profundity. The very existence of Boxes is a pleasant surprise, its release novel — but its appeal may be limited to Yorke faithful.