Surprise: Thom Yorke has some more alienation he’d like to share with you. His latest laptop confessional is an unexpected rush-release, like every proper Yorke or Radiohead album of the past decade. Yet it demands deep listening, as Yorke’s melancholic voice echoes through the hall of synth-mirrors he’s built with producer Nigel Godrich. As on his solo debut, 2006’s The Eraser, Yorke has written an album’s worth of disarmingly straightforward pop ballads, dressed up with affectionately retro turn-of-the-century glitchcore effects. But there’s no mistaking the intimate anguish of “The Mother Lode,” “Truth Ray,” and “Interference,” where he wails, “In the future we will change our numbers and lose contact.”
The LP’s second half has a 10-minute ambient suite, led by “There Is No Ice (For My Drink),” which begins with a sped-up “vision quest” chant. (Is Yorke reclaiming the Matthew Modine filmography?) It all builds to “Nose Grows Some,” easily the strongest, bleakest song here. Like so many great Radiohead finales – “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” “Videotape,” “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” – it’s a dread-soaked hymn of emotional defeat. Yorke might be afraid of losing human contact, like the rest of us. But in these songs, he’s not giving up without a fight.