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Tomorrow's Modern Boxes

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Tomorrow's Modern Boxes
A box drawn from a series of green lines against a grey background. Light green bold text to the bottom right reads "Thom Yorke"; white bold text beside it reads "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes".
Studio album by Thom Yorke
Released 26 September 2014 (2014-09-26)
Genre Electronic
Length 38:13
Label
Producer Nigel Godrich
Thom Yorke chronology
The Eraser Rmxs
(2008)The Eraser Rmxs2008
Tomorrow's Modern Boxes
(2014)
Suspiria
(2018)

Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is the second solo album by Thom Yorke of the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released on 26 September 2014. It was produced by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, with artwork by Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood. The album blends Yorke's vocals and piano playing with electronic beats and textures.

Yorke released Tomorrow's Modern Boxes independently via a paid-for BitTorrent bundle. He and Godrich expressed their wish to find "an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work". The album was downloaded over a million times within six days of release, and became the most-downloaded legal torrent of 2014; by February 2015, it had been downloaded over 4.5 million times.

A vinyl edition was also sold from the official site. On 26 December 2014, Yorke released Tomorrow's Modern Boxes on the online music shop Bandcamp alongside a new song, "Youwouldn'tlikemewhenI'mangry". The album received generally positive reviews and Rolling Stone named it one of the best of 2014. A CD edition was released in Japan in August 2015 by Hostess Entertainment, and it was reissued on physical formats worldwide in December 2017 by XL Recordings.

Background[edit]

Yorke (front) and producer Godrich (back) performing with Atoms for Peace in 2013

In 2013, Yorke contributed music to The UK Gold, a documentary about tax avoidance in the UK; the soundtrack includes an early version of the Tomorrow's Modern Boxes track "A Brain in a Bottle".[1] The following year, elements of Tomorrow's Modern Boxes were used in the soundtrack for the second version of Radiohead's Polyfauna app, released on 1 September 2014, before the album's announcement.[2] The app, for Android and iOS phones, is an "experimental collaboration" between Radiohead and the British digital arts studio Universal Everything.[3] Later that month, Yorke posted a photo of an unidentified vinyl record on Tumblr, prompting media speculation about a new release.[4]

Release[edit]

In 2007, Radiohead released their album In Rainbows independently as a pay-what-you-want download.[5] Matt Mason, chief content officer at BitTorrent Inc, felt the release was the "gold standard for how to do something direct-to-fan on the internet", and began talks with Radiohead's managers about the future of online music distribution.[6]

In 2013, Radiohead singer Yorke and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich expressed concern about how the internet has affected the music business, and accused the music streaming service Spotify of not compensating new artists fairly. Godrich stated: "[Streaming] cannot work as a way of supporting new artists' work. Spotify and the like either have to address that fact and change the model for new releases or else all new music producers should be bold and vote with their feet."[7] Mason told The Guardian that Tomorrow's Modern Boxes was "born out of these conversations we had on how the internet should work for artists: the vision we both share, which is that at present we don't have a sustainable business model for artists on the internet."[8]

Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich announced Tomorrow's Modern Boxes on 26 September 2014.[9] It was released the same day via the peer-to-peer file sharing protocol BitTorrent using BitTorrent Inc's "bundles" initiative, whereby creators distribute their work in packaged torrent files. It was the first album to use BitTorrent's "pay-gate" feature; customers paid US$6 (£3.69) to download the Tomorrow's Modern Boxes torrent bundle containing eight MP3 files, cover artwork by Stanley Donwood,[10] and a music video for "A Brain in a Bottle" featuring Yorke in boxing gloves.[11] Users could also download a free torrent bundle containing only the "Brain in a Bottle" MP3 and video, or order a "deluxe" vinyl edition of the album packaged in a bespoke antistatic bag.[12]

In a press release announcing the album, Yorke and Godrich wrote:

Other formats[edit]

On 26 December 2014, Yorke released Tomorrow's Modern Boxes in MP3 and FLAC formats for £3.86 on the online music shop Bandcamp.[13] He also released a free new song, "Youwouldn'tlikemewhenI'mangry",[13] which Godrich described as a "complimentary addendum" to the album.[14] On 30 June 2015, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes was made available to stream with the launch of Apple Music, Apple's streaming service.[15] A CD version was released in Japan by Hostess Entertainment in August 2015.[16][17] On 8 December 2017, it was reissued on CD and vinyl by XL Recordings[18] and added to further streaming services, including Spotify, along with the rest of Yorke's solo work.[19]

Music[edit]

Tomorrow's Modern Boxes blends Yorke's vocals and piano playing with electronic beats and textures.[20] Critics described it as "eerie"[21] and "neurotic", with "a quiet, restrained sense of dread".[22] The A.V. Club likened its music to the Radiohead tracks "Like Spinning Plates" (from 2001's Amnesiac) and "The Gloaming" (2003's Hail to the Thief).[21]

The opening track, "A Brain in a Bottle", combines Yorke's falsetto[22] with a stuttering beat and "old-school" oscillator effects.[21] Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood contributed beat programming to "Guess Again!",[10] which features "decaying" piano and "crunchy" backbeats.[20] "Interference" is a minimal "mumbled love song" with "chilly" synth pads.[21] Slant Magazine described "The Mother Lode" as melodic and dubstep-inspired, with an "intoxicating" house beat.[22] The album's second half features a ten-minute ambient suite[23] led by the "percussive" looping track "There Is No Ice (For My Drink)".[22] Rolling Stone described the final track, "Nose Grows Some", as a "dread-soaked hymn of emotional defeat", likening it to Radiohead finales such as "Motion Picture Soundtrack" from Kid A (2000).[23]

Sales[edit]

Tomorrow's Modern Boxes was downloaded over 100,000 times in the first 24 hours of release[24] and over a million times in its first six days.[25] Excluding internet piracy, it was the most torrented album of 2014.[26] By February 2015, it had been downloaded over 4.5 million times.[27] These figures include downloads of the free torrent bundle containing only the "Brain in a Bottle" MP3 and music video; sales figures for the full album bundle have not been released.[25]

Stereogum and Gigaom estimated that Yorke may have made $20 million from the release, more than he would likely have made through a traditional album release.[28][29] Stereogum wrote that "this sort of album-release strategy only works for artists who are already astronomically famous, but salute Thom Yorke for figuring out ways to keep stacking cash while keeping his artistic autonomy."[28] However, Billboard argued that, assuming the ratio of people who paid for the full album was comparable to subscription numbers of Spotify and Pandora Radio, earnings between $1 and 6 million were more likely: "Not bad showing for a self-released, direct-to-fan album that allowed Yorke to circumvent major download stores and gather customer information — but it's no Hollywood starring role, either."[30]

In November 2015, asked if the BitTorrent release had been a success, Yorke said: "No, not exactly. But I wanted it to be an experiment ... I wanted to show that, in theory, today one could follow the entire chain of record production, from start to finish, on his own. But in practice it is very different. We cannot be burdened with all of the responsibilities of the record label. But I'm glad I did it, for having tried to."[31]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic72/100[32]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[33]
The A.V. ClubB−[21]
Consequence of SoundC+[34]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[35]
Exclaim!7/10[36]
The Guardian3/5 stars[37]
NME7/10[38]
Pitchfork6.3/10[20]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[23]
Slant Magazine4/5 stars[22]

At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes has an average score of 72 based on 29 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[32]

AllMusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the album as "deliberately underwhelming, an old-fashioned grower that doesn't startle upon first listen but rather slowly unfolds ... instead of wallowing in alienation, Yorke has found comfort within it on Tomorrow's Modern Boxes and the difference is palpable."[33] Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone wrote that Tomorrow's Modern Boxes "demands deep listening" and praised "Nose Grows Some" as the strongest track.[23] Rolling Stone later named the album the 30th best of 2014.[39] Slant Magazine critic Franklin Jones wrote: "This is paranoia with a soul, and occasionally a heart ... Tomorrow's Modern Boxes maintains the trademark elements of a Thom Yorke release while injecting subtle moments of fresh invention."[22] Barry Nicholson of the NME wrote: "It's hardly love at first listen … Yet across repeat plays, the album's charms begin to unfurl."[38]

The A.V. Club gave the album a positive review, but wrote: "Flashes of brilliance aside, the result sounds an awful lot like something Yorke dashed off to pass the time before delving into the new Radiohead album."[21] Mark Beaumont of the Guardian called it "deviously understated", but found that its unconventional release was "more impactful than the product".[37] Larry Fitzmaurice of Pitchfork wrote: "There's precious little to grab on to in terms of melody and feeling, and you won't find yourself humming along to anything here. That said, certain elements of Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, if given the right amount of attention, can be enjoyable to luxuriate in."[20] Chris Barton of the Los Angeles Times found the album too similar to Yorke's 2006 solo album The Eraser and his work with Atoms for Peace, writing that "it’s just a bit disappointing that Yorke's path seems short on new directions".[40]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich, except "Guess Again!" by Yorke, Godrich and Colin Greenwood.

No.TitleLength
1."A Brain in a Bottle"4:41
2."Guess Again!"4:24
3."Interference"2:49
4."The Mother Lode"6:07
5."Truth Ray"5:14
6."There Is No Ice (For My Drink)"7:00
7."Pink Section"2:35
8."Nose Grows Some"5:23
Total length:38:13

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from the Tomorrow's Modern Boxes packaging.[10]

Chart positions[edit]

Charts (2015) Peak
position
US Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums[41] 13

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Kreps, Daniel (25 February 2015). "Listen to Thom Yorke's Minimalist 'UK Gold' Score Contributions". 25 February 2015. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  2. ^ Kreps, Daniel (26 September 2014). "Thom Yorke's 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes': A Track-By-Track Guide". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  3. ^ Carrie Battan (11 February 2014). "Radiohead Release PolyFauna App". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  4. ^ "Thom Yorke posts vinyl picture, is definitely up to something". DIY. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  5. ^ Pareles, Jon (9 December 2007). "Pay What You Want for This Article". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  6. ^ "BitTorrent Boss on Thom Yorke's Surprise Record: "Thom was very clear, 'This is an experiment.'"". The FADER. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  7. ^ Arthur, Charles (15 July 2013). "Thom Yorke blasts Spotify on Twitter as he pulls his music | Technology". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  8. ^ Dredge, Stuart (26 September 2014). "BitTorrent talks Thom Yorke: 'Major labels have given up on selling music' | Technology". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  9. ^ a b Gordon, Jeremy (26 September 2014). "Thom Yorke Announces New Album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes | News". Pitchfork. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  10. ^ a b c Tomorrow's Modern Boxes vinyl packaging
  11. ^ Reilly, Dan (26 September 2014). "Thom Yorke's 'Brain in a Bottle' Video Features, Yes, Twitchy Thom Yorke Dancing". Spin. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Thom Yorke – Tomorrow's Modern Boxes". Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Thom Yorke Shares New Track "You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry"". Retrieved 2015-04-07.
  14. ^ nigel godrich (26 December 2014). "Tweet Number 548493822184140800". Twitter. Retrieved 7 April 2015. Some new music - this time on @Bandcamp to warm you on this winters day.. Youwouldntlikemewhenimangry... A complimentary addendum to TMB..
  15. ^ "Thom Yorke, Atoms for Peace Albums Available on Apple Music". Retrieved 2015-07-01.
  16. ^ "トム・ヨーク2ndアルバムの"CD"がHOSTESS CLUB ALL-NIGHTER会場でゲリラ発売!?Thom Yorke released exclusive version of Tomorrow's Modern Boxes in Japan". 15 August 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  17. ^ "リリース情報|Hostess Entertainment Unlimited". Retrieved 2015-08-17.
  18. ^ Cook-Wilson, Winston (2 October 2017). "Radiohead's Thom Yorke announces solo shows and 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' reissue". NME. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  19. ^ Young, Alex (8 August 2017). "Thom Yorke finally makes his solo catalog available on Spotify". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  20. ^ a b c d Fitzmaurice, Larry (1 October 2014). "Reviews – Thom Yorke: Tomorrow's Modern Boxes". Pitchfork. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Schonfeld, Zach (29 September 2014). "Review: Thom Yorke's Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is pretty but unremarkable · Music Review". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  22. ^ a b c d e f Jones, Franklin (30 September 2014). "Thom Yorke: Tomorrow's Modern Boxes". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  23. ^ a b c d Sheffield, Rob (30 September 2014). "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  24. ^ "Thom Yorke's Tomorrow's Modern Boxes tops 100 thousand downloads in first 24 hours via BitTorrent – Music News". Fact. The Vinyl Factory. 27 September 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  25. ^ a b Young, Alex (3 October 2014). "Thom Yorke's new solo album receives one million downloads in six days". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  26. ^ Daly, Rhian (27 December 2014). "Thom Yorke tops list of most legally downloaded artists on BitTorrent in 2014". NME. Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  27. ^ David Cross Is Letting Fans Name Their Price And Download His First Film Creation Hits On BitTorrent. Techcrunch. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  28. ^ a b Breihan, Tom (5 January 2015). "Thom Yorke May Have Made $20M On Tomorrow's Modern Boxes". Stereogum. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  29. ^ Ingram, Matthew (5 January 2015). "Thom Yorke made as much as $20M from his BitTorrent experiment". Gigaom. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  30. ^ Peoples, Glenn (5 January 2015). "Thom Yorke Probably Didn't Make $20M on 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes'". Billboard. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  31. ^ Young, Alex (30 November 2015). "Thom Yorke likens YouTube to Nazi Germany: "They steal art"". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  32. ^ a b "Reviews for Tomorrow's Modern Boxes by Thom Yorke". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  33. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  34. ^ Geffen, Sasha (26 September 2014). "Thom Yorke – Tomorrow's Modern Boxes". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  35. ^ Anderson, Kyle (29 September 2014). "Reviewing Thom Yorke's 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes': A surprise delivery -- and a pretty great one". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  36. ^ Simpson, Scott (29 September 2014). "Thom Yorke – Tomorrow's Modern Boxes • Dance & Electronic Reviews". Exclaim!. 1059434 Ontario. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  37. ^ a b Beaumont, Mark (29 September 2014). "Thom Yorke: Tomorrow's Modern Boxes review – 'Bobs disconsolately along in the soul-noir slipstream' | Music". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  38. ^ a b Nicholson, Barry (27 September 2014). "Reviews – Thom Yorke's 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes'". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  39. ^ "Thom Yorke, 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' - 50 Best Albums of 2014". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2015-04-08.
  40. ^ Barton, Chris (29 September 2014). "Review: Thom Yorke's 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' holds few surprises". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  41. ^ "Thom Yorke- Dance/Electronic Albums chart". Billboard. Retrieved 28 December 2015.

External links[edit]