Much has already been said, and will continue to be said, about Thom Yorke's new solo outing's delivery method, as was the case for Radiohead's past two releases. Everything about the release of Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is very Thom Yorke: sudden surprise album drop, new means of distribution and big PR push with some sort of "manifesto" explaining said means of distribution. In this case, Yorke and long-standing collaborator and producer Nigel Godrich have partnered up with BitTorrent through their Bundles service to self-release Yorke's sophomore solo album.
BitTorrent Bundles are far from new, but this is the first time they've released content behind a paygate, charging a very reasonable six dollars and taking a 10% cut, much like a Bandcamp release, through which Radiohead famously released In Rainbows in a "pay what you want" scheme. But that's so 2007, and not nearly innovative enough to make a splash in 2014. In partnering with BitTorrent, Yorke claims to be "bypassing the self elected gate-keepers" of the music industry, and by using a P2P platform, effectively removing the need for "any server uploading or hosting costs or 'cloud' malarkey."
What does this all amount to? Much of the same, really. Yorke's seemingly done with innovating through his music, instead attacking existing industry models. Tomorrow's Modern Boxes breaks very little new ground, if any, but fits cosily within Yorke's larger discography as a solo artist and with his many side projects as Sisi BakBak and Atoms For Peace. Album opener "A Brain In A Bottle" is interesting enough, and sounds like it could have easily been included in 2006's The Eraser, while "Guess Again!" sounds eerily like Massive Attack's "Paradise Circus." Glitchy piano-led instrumental "Pink Section" is largely unnecessary, acting simply as a segue into beautiful album closer "Nose Grows Some."
Maybe we no longer need a musically innovative Thom Yorke, and maybe it's okay to let his release stunts overshadow the actual product, because he still manages to provoke discussions about antiquated release methods and question the necessity of larger record labels. In the end, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is undeniably enjoyable, acting like a 2014 version of The Eraser and adding some new Thom Yorke material to your music collection never hurts. (Independent)