Thom Yorke Drops Surprise Album ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ (Cue The Beyonce Comparisons)

Christina Lee | September 26, 2014 10:08 am

“I am trying something new, don’t know how it will go,” Thom Yorke said today (September 26) on Twitter.

That “something” was a new album. With that announcement, the Radiohead frontman and Atoms for Peace founder released Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes via torrent service BitTorrent. One song, “Brain In a Bottle,” is available for free, while the album can be purchased for $6 – making for what BitTorrent calls “the first paygated torrent in history.” Artists like Madonna have used torrents to distribute content to fans before, but only for free, as The Verge points out.

A memo co-signed by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich explains why Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is out on BitTorrent. “If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work,” it reads. “Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers. If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done.”

The memo also points out how this surprise release differs from another that dominated recent headlines: “The torrent mechanism does not require any server uploading or hosting costs or ‘cloud’ malarkey.” To be blunt, that aside feels like a diss directed toward U2‘s own surprise album Songs of Innocence. That album was distributed for free via iCloud, the exact same technology that was reportedly used to access the celebrity nude photos that were released in a recent massive leak. (Ugh.)

Meanwhile, those who caught wind of Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes (“nice and glitchy with a soulful undertone,” says NPR’s pop critic Ann Powers) are left with just one question, perhaps the most important of all: Is it a Beyonce? Yes, Radiohead has toyed with ways to release new music before Third Ward Trill’s visual album, most famously with the name-your-price method for 2007’s In Rainbows. Still …

So have we, Laney. So have we. Download Thom Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes here or below.

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