Listening to Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes – the second solo album from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, which was tossed into the internet without preamble on Friday – for the first time, I experienced a moment of aural disconnect that’s characteristic of the millennial music experience. I’d received a message on the phone on which I was playing the album. It was a brief vacuum of musical silence, a lack accompanied by the thrum of my phone case against the TV cabinet. The thrill of a notification. The pulse of the void.
The contradiction between the promise of connection and this brief, disruptive absence is consistent with the album itself. Ever since OK Computer, Yorke’s creative output has thrived in the middle ground between intimacy and anonymity. This dualism is perfectly suited to a post-social media environment defined by guarded familiarity, as we construct a fragile, artificial exoskeleton (a fitter, happier, more productive version of ourselves) through which to filter our interactions with others. (How else was Yorke to distribute the album but through BitTorrent, where detached packets of data are given to an anonymous sea to be shared amongst strangers?).