|Damon Albarn — Everyday Robots (Special Edition, 2014)|
Damon Albarn — Everyday Robots
°→ Distinctive vocalist was the force behind indie–rock stalwarts Blur before forming dance–pop–rock–cartoon outfit Gorillaz.
°→ Blur frontman goes solo proper with a memorable debut...
Born: March 23, 1968 in London, England
Location: Colchester, Essex ~ London, England
Album release: April 28, 2014
Record Label: Parlophone
Duration: 46:40+39:52=> 86:32
01 Everyday Robots 3:57
02 Hostiles 4:10
03 Lonely Press Play 3:43
04 Mr. Tembo 3:43
05 Parakeet 0:44
06 The Selfish Giant 4:48
07 You and Me 7:05
08 Hollow Ponds 5:00
09 Seven High 1:00
10 Photographs (You Are Taking Now) 4:44
11 The History of a Cheating Heart 4:01
12 Heavy Seas of Love 3:45
13 Father's Daughter's Son (bonus track) 3:39
14 Empty Club (bonus track) 3:16
15 Everyday Robots (Track by Track), video 15:42
16 Everyday Robots (Live from Fox Studios Los Angeles), video 3:57
17 Hostiles (Live from Fox Studios Los Angeles), video 4:34
18 Lonely Press Play (Live from Fox Studios Los Angeles), video 4:04
19 Hollow Ponds (Live from Fox Studios Los Angeles), video 4:40
℗ 2014 Thirteen Limited under exclusive license to Parlophone Records Limited. A Warner Music Group company.
theguardian.com, Monday 20 January 2014 16.28 GMT:
°→ Damon Albarn has seemingly done all he can to avoid having the time to release a solo album. As well as being the part–time frontman of popular beat combo Blur, he's also released four albums as Gorillaz, created the super group the Good, the Bad and the Queen, released two EPs of scratchy demos called Democrazy, scored films with Michael Nyman and created two operas. One of those operas, Dr Dee, was referred to by Damon at the time as his most personal project to date, with any suggestion of a proper solo album being forthcoming batted away, because he "never really understood the term". He seems to have changed his mind, however, with the announcement of his debut solo album proper, Everyday Robots. Described on his Facebook page as "his most soul–searching and autobiographical yet" with a focus on "nature versus technology", the album features production from XL boss Richard Russell (who Albarn collaborated with on Bobby Womack's The Bravest Man in the Universe), as well as guest spots from Brian Eno and Natasha Khan. The first song to emerge from the album is the title track, a snippet of which actually appeared on, of all places, Diplo's Instagram account more than six months ago. Opening with what sounds like strangely filtered strings, piano and creaking, muffled beats, the opening line — "we are everyday robots on our phones" — makes it clear this particular track focuses on the nature/technology dichotomy as opposed to anything deeply personal. As with most of Thom Yorke's solo album, The Eraser, Everyday Robots is simultaneously paranoid and pretty, casting an eye over society with a sort of sad shrug and a lilting melody.
Blur frontman goes solo proper with a memorable debut...
CLASHMUSIC / REVIEWS / 11 · 04 · 2014
GARETH JAMES; SCORE: 8/10
°→ Forgive Clash for being so blunt, but would you mind if we just dispense with the naively retrograde hopes held by some that debut solo set proper from one of the definitive voices of his generation would be a grandiose, big–budget blockbusting record that revisits the sounds of Britpop? Because, that is one thing it very much isn’t.
°→ What ‘Everyday Robots’ is, however, is a subtle, textured patchwork covering Damon Albarn’s 45 years to date, with lyrics capturing snapshots of his childhood in Leytonstone through to a song he made up for a baby elephant he met in Tanzania.
°→ Oddly pilloried in some quarters for his sense of musical adventure, it’s worth observing that Albarn may be the most consistently impressive songwriter of the last couple of decades, and ‘Everyday Robots’ is littered with evidence that his title should be safe.
°→ Having worked with XL owner and renowned producer Richard Russell on 2012’s wondrous Bobby Womack album ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’ (Clash’s number one LP of 2012), Albarn opted to put himself in the solo spotlight and leave his friend behind the desk.
°→ Russell’s signature stripped–back sound is all over ‘Everyday Robots’, but it serves the songs well. Little touches like the piano motif from the title track (video below) reappearing at the end of album–closing Brian Eno collaboration ‘Heavy Seas Of Love’, or the gradual hastening of the beat at the end of ‘Lonely Press Play’ to cue in ‘Mr. Tembo’, are a delight.
°→ Albarn appears to be railing against the technological oppression of 21st century living, whether proclaiming that “it’s hard to be a lover when the TV’s on” on ‘The Selfish Giant’ (featuring Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes) or exploring the idea that humans will evolve to the point where their hands only have strong scrolling thumbs.
°→ Musically, the penchant for subtle melody that he has explored so well through The Good, The Bad & The Queen and some of the less chart–conquering Gorillaz material burns bright. The seven–minute sprawl of ‘You And Me’, another Eno collaboration, seems to be mooching along demurely before dropping down to a steel drum from which it rebuilds, sounding like the fuzzy early hours of a summer’s morning and topped with a fragile falsetto that provides the album’s highpoint.
°→ The phrase ‘slow–burner’ is tossed around rather carelessly, but ‘Everyday Robots’ is a definite contender. Weeks on from the first listen, it feels like it’s always been there. It doesn’t burn out so much as creep up and these songs offer yet another new guise for a remarkable talent. 8/10 Words: Gareth James (http://www.clashmusic.com/)
Artist Biography by Jason Ankeny
°→ As the frontman for Blur and Gorillaz, Damon Albarn helped shape the British mainstream during the '90s and beyond, first establishing himself as a Brit–pop icon before expanding into hip–hop, opera, electronica, and world music. Born in London on March 23, 1968, he was raised in a bohemian household, studying a number of instruments (piano, guitar, and violin) during his youth and befriending Graham Coxon, a fellow student at the Stanway Comprehensive School, as a 12 year–old. Albarn later studied drama before joining the little–known synth pop outfit Two's a Crowd; at 15, he also won the regional heat in the Young Composer of the Year contest. While a student at Goldsmith University, he again crossed paths with guitarist Coxon, and together they formed a band called the Circus. With the additions of bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree, the group rechristened itself Seymour before finally settling on Blur upon signing to Food Records. Their debut single, "She's So High," cracked the U.K. Top 50, while the follow–up, "There's No Other Way," went as high as the Top Ten; however, the baggy beats and shoegazer–inspired textures of Blur's 1991 debut album, Leisure, earned the band unkind critical comparisons to the dying Madchester scene, and with the follow–up, 1993's Modern Life Is Rubbish, they consciously set out to evoke a more traditional pop sound.
°→ With 1994's Parklife, Albarn's songs revealed an altogether new sophistication, his wry social commentaries and clever melodies evoking the great British pop tradition of bands like the Kinks and the Jam. The album made Blur the most popular and influential band in England at the time, and it captured a rabid cult following abroad as well. Although chief rivals Oasis quickly usurped Blur's dominance, 1995's The Great Escape debuted at number one nonetheless. Still, when the record slipped down the charts, the band was written off by the music press and spent much of 1996 in seclusion, although Albarn made the most of that time by releasing his solo debut, "Closet Romantic," which doubled as his contribution to the Trainspotting soundtrack. °→ Blur's self–titled LP restored the band's luster one year later, as the single "Song 2" became an American hit. The same year, Albarn made his film debut in Antonia Bird's Face, and Blur's full–length 13 followed in 1999.
°→ In 2000, Albarn debuted Gorillaz, his highly successful "virtual hip–hop group," which released four albums between 2001 and 2011. Other Albarn–driven projects arrived during the new millennium, too, from Mali Music — an eclectic collaboration with Malian musicians like Afel Bocoum — to the Good, the Bad & the Queen, a British supergroup featuring Paul Simonon, Simon Tong, and Tony Allen. Albarn also began exploring cinema and theater projects, co–creating the opera productions Monkey: Journey to the West and Doctor Dee, while also scoring a film adaptation of his sister's own book, The Boy in the Oak. Rocketjuice & the Moon, another supergroup featuring Allen and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, released their first album in April 2012; a month later, a recording of the Dr. Dee opera — inspired by polymath and advisor to Elizabeth I John Dee — arrived. In 2014, Albarn debuted his first solo album, Everyday Robots. The album features the single "Lonely Press Play" and a collaboration with Brian Eno.
By Larry Day | posted on 22 Apr 2014 | Score: ****½
°→ Dissecting and analysing our relationships with technology, Damon Albarn‘s message on his first solo album (no, Gorillaz, Democrazy and The Good, The Bad and The Queen don’t count — though there are fleeting similarities in more than just obvious ways) Everyday Robots may be overt, and it may be well–worn by comrades, acolytes and messrs across the galaxy, but that doesn’t make it any less pertinent, nor does it reduce the gravitas of Albarn’s take.
°→ A deft songwriter to the core, Albarn laments but never wallows, and he proffers an astute critique of modern society and our fascination of and reliance on technology. °→ It’s not exactly subtle in its presentation – have a guess at the meaning behind the title Everyday Robots — but it’s timely and essential nonetheless. You don’t have to lurk behind curtains and dingy shrouds to convey a meaning; you can just bloody say it and have just as much oomph.
°→ However, alongside the dichotomy of nature vs. tech, it’s also a personal record, with the Blur frontman painstakingly scrutinising his 46 years on the planet under a high–powered microscope. From the 1976 droughts (Hollow Ponds), to visits to Tanzania (Mr Tembo), to a childhood spent in Leytonstone, Albarn delves into it all. There are also ruminations on loneliness and the human condition. It’s thematically scattered, reeling off poignancy like Robin Williams telling jokes, but underpinned by a strong sonic environment and the backdrop of Albarn’s life. So while he’s scurrying into musings on our love affair with iPhones (or in Albarn’s case, the iPad), he’s doing it through the lens of his own experiences to ground it in one context and provide a strident musical identity.
°→ The Selfish Giant, featuring Bat For Lashes‘ Natasha Khan’s dulcet pipes, is home to romantic–era piano motifs and glitchy beats. It’s a kind of bare bones dance ballad, with bolshy pulses and simple–yet–sublime melodies. The Brian Eno and Leytonstone Mission Choir–featuring Heavy Seas Of Love is perhaps the grandest cut on the record, with rickety percussion and illustrious piano embellishments. There’s a definite, continual vibe throughout Everyday Robots: it’s pensive, stripped–back and faintly electronic. All fat’s been trimmed, and the real stars are Albarn’s vocal fragility and the ivories he tinkles. Mr Tembo, an ode to a young elephant, is the only real indulgent vacation; it’s tropical pop with shuffling rhythms and an uplifting acoustic guitar earworm.
°→ Everyday Robots is a multi–layered record, much like an aural pavlova, with gooey dollops of bittersweet, ouright sweet, darkly morose and wistful reflection. It’s rather strange tasting pavlova however, squishing sour pain with halcyon nostalgia. This is a meaty record that’ll take considerable chunks of your time to fully appreciate, and is the kind of record that you’ll probably still be trying to completely wrap your head around years down the line, stumbling across hidden noise–nuggets or subtexts. Surely, if anything, this is a testament to Albarn’s status as one of contemporary music’s most enduring songwriters. He’s able to craft a wondrous record with apparent ease. It never sounds laboured or overcooked, always heartfelt and genuine.
°→ We’ve had to wait over 20 years for Albarn to release an album entirely his own, through myriad side projects and other focuses. While it’s not the all–guns–blazing, gung-ho epic slab of epic epicness that unloads two barrels of gumption into your nose on first listen, it’s still phenomenal. It’ll take some time to get to grips with, and requires input — this isn’t a passive album — but you reap what you sow, and if you take enough time with Everyday Robots, you’ll be rewarded with a dazzling LP that’ll lodge itself in your mind from now until your last breath.
|Damon Albarn — Everyday Robots (Special Edition, 2014)|