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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released March 3, 2010 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions 4 étoiles Rock and Folk - 5/6 de Magic - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 23, 2020 | Parlophone UK

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Two years after they returned to the scene with The Now Now, an album without any featuring artists, Gorillaz are going back to what they love doing best: collaborations. The singles were released sporadically throughout 2020 with a high-flying lineup. Damon Albarn released one song per month, with the whole thing making up Season 1 of Song Machine. The album opens with the brilliant and highly relevant track Strange Times featuring Robert Smith. Damon says that he worked with the singer from The Cure entirely over email. “What I gave Robert was something very vague. He completely and utterly made it what it is” he said. It’s a masterpiece that’s perfectly fitting for the pandemic. In the long guestlist we find Beck on The Valleys of the Pagans, Leee John on the soulful The Lost Chord and the sweet high notes of Imagination, Peter Hook and the young singer Georgia on the post-punk song Aries, Fatoumata Diawara on the hypnotic Désolée (where Albarn even sings in French) and the raunchy punk rap of Momentary Bliss with slowthaï. The more you listen to it the more you can appreciate its richness. That’s what makes the album so good: it brings together incongruent artists who take the songs in a whole range of different directions. You never know where you’re going next. The Gorillaz lead you through a whole array of styles, adding a common varnish to each layer. The Deluxe edition includes six new tracks including MLS with JPEGMafia and the excellent Opium by the Southern duo EarthGang who are signed to J Cole’s label Dreamville. This is an eclectic, profound and very large scale project that’s stamped with Albarn’s impeccable production. And we’ve even got Season 2 and a Netflix documentary to look forward to! © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 11, 2014 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released April 11, 2014 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released April 11, 2014 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 29, 2018 | Parlophone UK

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Damon is never far away. In 2017 while on tour with the Gorillaz, his imagination was already conceiving The Now Now on GarageBand software under the rooftops of American hotels. The result? Eleven fine-tuned tracks with Jamie Hewlett and his team. Here, Blur’s leader avoids surrounding himself too much. The record Humanz, released a year earlier, was flooded with a good fifteen featuring artists including Pusha T, Benjamine Clemantine and Peven Everett. The Now Now does the opposite. Where Humanz is hip-hop, collective and extroverted, The Now Now is pop, intimate and melancholic (see Fire Flies). This sixth opus has the amplitude of an outdoor, off-screen, out-of-studio design, all the while maintaining a good dose of self-reflection. He now surrounds himself with the crème de la crème (well-beaten but far from being out of date): George Benson (on guitar on Humility), Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle (in Hollywood). He’s halved the number of his tracks and moved away from crossover genres (funk-dub-reggae-dance) towards a retro-futuristic groove. Albarn confirms, as if that’s even necessary, that he still has a lot to say. © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 28, 2017 | Parlophone UK

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On 2017's Humanz, Damon Albarn returns to Gorillaz after a seven-year hiatus -- a period when he busied himself with two operas, a solo album, and a Blur reunion -- and reconnects with the collaborative instincts that drove the band's first two albums. Plastic Beach -- the 2010 album that served as the group's last major opus (The Fall, released just months later, was that LP's bittersweet coda) -- found Albarn stepping toward the center stage but on Humanz he recedes, giving his collaborators the spotlight and softening whatever complicated narrative he and illustrator Jamie Hewlett devised for their cartoon group's fourth phase. Maybe this is why Humanz feels wild and unruly in a way Plastic Beach never did: the emphasis is on the individual cuts, not the grand concept. Some themes are woven throughout the record -- there's a political undercurrent, although the upheavals of Trump and Brexit are never addressed directly; there's a heavy reliance on R&B and hip-hop -- but the album seems pleasingly scattershot as it bounces from guest to guest. Its messiness suits the digital era, when it's possible to swipe from style to style without a second thought, but Humanz isn't haphazard. Albarn deliberately sculpts each cut, giving plenty of space for Vince Staples, Grace Jones, Danny Brown, Anthony Hamilton, Mavis Staples, Pusha T, and longtime Gorillaz mainstay De La Soul to roam. That list of guest artists underscores how Humanz feels connected to soul in a way Plastic Beach didn't, but with its careening, carnivalesque hooks and skeletal 2-Tone spook -- not to mention how the whole thing is anchored on "Busted and Blue," a Damon solo track that could've slid onto Everyday Robots -- it's clearly an Albarn project. But even with its heavy, heavy R&B vibe and roiling politics, Humanz feels strangely uplifting, as if every musician who entered the studio found solace in the act of creation. That's why "We Got the Power" -- a collaboration with Savages singer Jehnny Beth and Damon's onetime rival Noel Gallagher -- is such a fitting closer: in dark times, it finds hope and inspiration in the power of the collective, which is a testament to what Albarn intends to do with Gorillaz. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 23, 2005 | Parlophone UK

Damon Albarn went to great pains to explain that the first Gorillaz album was a collaboration between him, cartoonist Jamie Hewlett, and producer Dan the Automator, but any sort of pretense to having the virtual pop group seem like a genuine collaborative band was thrown out the window for the group's long-awaited 2005 sequel, Demon Days. Hewlett still provides new animation for Gorillaz -- although the proposed feature-length film has long disappeared -- but Dan the Automator is gone, leaving Albarn as the unquestioned leader of the group. This isn't quite similar to Blur, a genuine band that faltered after Graham Coxon decided he had enough, leaving Damon behind to construct the muddled Think Tank largely on his own. No, Gorillaz were always designed as a collective, featuring many contributors and producers, all shepherded by Albarn, the songwriter, mastermind, and ringleader. Hiding behind Hewlett's excellent cartoons gave Albarn the freedom to indulge himself, but it also gave him focus since it tied him to a specific concept. Throughout his career, Albarn always was at his best when writing in character -- to the extent that anytime he wrote confessionals in Blur, they sounded stagy -- and Gorillaz not only gave him an ideal platform, it liberated him, giving him the opportunity to try things he couldn't within the increasingly dour confines of Blur. It wasn't just that the cartoon concept made for light music -- on the first Gorillaz album, Damon sounded as if he were having fun for the first time since Parklife. But 2005 is a much different year than 2001, and if Gorillaz exuded the heady, optimistic, future-forward vibes of the turn of the millennium, Demon Days is as theatrically foreboding as its title, one of the few pop records made since 9/11 that captures the eerie unease of living in the 21st century. Not really a cartoony feel, in other words, but Gorillaz indulged in doom and gloom from their very first single, "Clint Eastwood," so this is not unfamiliar territory, nor is it all that dissimilar from the turgid moodiness of Blur's 2003 Think Tank. But where Albarn seemed simultaneously constrained and adrift on that last Blur album -- attempting to create indie rock, yet unsure how since messiness contradicts his tightly wound artistic impulses -- he's assured and masterful on Demon Days, regaining his flair for grand gestures that served him so well at the height of Britpop, yet tempering his tendency to overreach by keeping the music lean and evocative through his enlistment of electronica maverick Danger Mouse as producer. Demon Days is unified and purposeful in a way Albarn's music hasn't been since The Great Escape, possessing a cinematic scope and a narrative flow, as the curtain unveils to the ominous, morose "Last Living Souls" and then twists and winds through valleys, detours, and wrong paths -- some light, some teeming with dread -- before ending up at the haltingly hopeful title track. Along the way, cameos float in and out of the slipstream and Albarn relies on several familiar tricks: the Specials are a touchstone, brooding minor key melodies haunt the album, there are some singalong refrains, while a celebrity recites a lyric (this time, it's Dennis Hopper). Instead of sounding like musical crutches, this sounds like an artist who knows his strengths and uses them as an anchor so he can go off and explore new worlds. Chief among the strengths that Albarn relies upon is his ability to find collaborators who can articulate his ideas clearly and vividly. Danger Mouse, whose Grey Album mash-up of the Beatles and Jay-Z was an underground sensation in 2004, gives this music an elasticity and creeping darkness than infects even such purportedly lighthearted moments as "Feel Good Inc." It's a sense of menace that's reminiscent of prime Happy Mondays, so it shouldn't be a surprise that one of the highlights of Demon Days is Shaun Ryder's cameo on the tight, deceptively catchy "Dare." Over a tightly wound four minutes, "Dare" exploits Ryder's iconic Mancunian thug persona within territory that belongs to the Gorillaz -- its percolating beat not too far removed from "19/2000" -- and that's what makes it a perfect distillation of Demon Days: by letting other musicians take center stage and by sharing credit with Danger Mouse, Damon Albarn has created an allegedly anonymous platform whose genius ultimately and quite clearly belongs to him alone. All the themes and ideas on this album have antecedents in his previous work, but surrounded by new collaborators, he's able to present them in a fresh, exciting way. And he has created a monster album here -- not just in its size, but in its Frankenstein construction. It not only eclipses the first Gorillaz album, which in itself was a terrific record, but stands alongside the best Blur albums, providing a tonal touchstone for this decade the way Parklife did for the '90s. While it won't launch a phenomenon the way that 1994 classic did -- Albarn is too much a veteran artist for that and the music is too dark and weird -- Demon Days is still one hell of a comeback for Damon Albarn, who seemed perilously close to forever disappearing into his own ego. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 9, 2020 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released April 11, 2014 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released April 11, 2014 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 28, 2017 | Parlophone UK

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On 2017's Humanz, Damon Albarn returns to Gorillaz after a seven-year hiatus -- a period when he busied himself with two operas, a solo album, and a Blur reunion -- and reconnects with the collaborative instincts that drove the band's first two albums. Plastic Beach -- the 2010 album that served as the group's last major opus (The Fall, released just months later, was that LP's bittersweet coda) -- found Albarn stepping toward the center stage but on Humanz he recedes, giving his collaborators the spotlight and softening whatever complicated narrative he and illustrator Jamie Hewlett devised for their cartoon group's fourth phase. Maybe this is why Humanz feels wild and unruly in a way Plastic Beach never did: the emphasis is on the individual cuts, not the grand concept. Some themes are woven throughout the record -- there's a political undercurrent, although the upheavals of Trump and Brexit are never addressed directly; there's a heavy reliance on R&B and hip-hop -- but the album seems pleasingly scattershot as it bounces from guest to guest. Its messiness suits the digital era, when it's possible to swipe from style to style without a second thought, but Humanz isn't haphazard. Albarn deliberately sculpts each cut, giving plenty of space for Vince Staples, Grace Jones, Danny Brown, Anthony Hamilton, Mavis Staples, Pusha T, and longtime Gorillaz mainstay De La Soul to roam. That list of guest artists underscores how Humanz feels connected to soul in a way Plastic Beach didn't, but with its careening, carnivalesque hooks and skeletal 2-Tone spook -- not to mention how the whole thing is anchored on "Busted and Blue," a Damon solo track that could've slid onto Everyday Robots -- it's clearly an Albarn project. But even with its heavy, heavy R&B vibe and roiling politics, Humanz feels strangely uplifting, as if every musician who entered the studio found solace in the act of creation. That's why "We Got the Power" -- a collaboration with Savages singer Jehnny Beth and Damon's onetime rival Noel Gallagher -- is such a fitting closer: in dark times, it finds hope and inspiration in the power of the collective, which is a testament to what Albarn intends to do with Gorillaz. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Hip-Hop/Rap - Released March 26, 2001 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released April 11, 2014 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 27, 2020 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 9, 2020 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released July 1, 2002 | Parlophone UK

The enormous success of Gorillaz' self-titled debut spawned a couple of collections from the animated hip-hop group as a way of satisfying their public until their Svengalis, Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and Damon Albarn, could reconvene to deliver new material. G-Sides was a more or less straightforward B-sides collection, while Laika Come Home offered a unique twist on the remix album. Instead of hiring several DJs and artists to remix the group's songs, Albarn and Nakamura had Space Monkeyz, who did a dub version of "Tomorrow Comes Today" as a B-side for that single, rework all of Gorillaz' songs as dub excursions. While the actual identities of the Space Monkeyz are questionable, gorillaz.com says they are "mutant offspring of the monkey cosmonauts sent into space during the Cold War" -- their remixing skills and dedication to authentic-sounding dub are undeniable. An appropriately laid-back, playful feel permeates Laika Come Home; the album's best moments, such as "19/2000 (Jungle Fresh)," "New Genius (Brother) (Mutant Genius)," and "M1A1 (Lil' Dub Chefin')" explore the dub influences at the root of Gorillaz' sound and offer a fun, fresh take on the songs. In all, while it's not as exciting -- or, arguably, necessary -- as a new Gorillaz album, Laika Come Home is still a more satisfying work than the usual boring and/or unpredictable remix album. Fans awaiting the Gorillaz' next move will be sufficiently entertained by this summery, spacy collection. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 9, 2020 | Parlophone UK

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Pop - Released April 11, 2014 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 29, 2018 | Parlophone UK

Damon is never far away. In 2017 while on tour with the Gorillaz, his imagination was already conceiving The Now Now on GarageBand software under the rooftops of American hotels. The result? Eleven fine-tuned tracks with Jamie Hewlett and his team. Here, Blur’s leader avoids surrounding himself too much. The record Humanz, released a year earlier, was flooded with a good fifteen featuring artists including Pusha T, Benjamine Clemantine and Peven Everett. The Now Now does the opposite. Where Humanz is hip-hop, collective and extroverted, The Now Now is pop, intimate and melancholic (see Fire Flies). This sixth opus has the amplitude of an outdoor, off-screen, out-of-studio design, all the while maintaining a good dose of self-reflection. He now surrounds himself with the crème de la crème (well-beaten but far from being out of date): George Benson (on guitar on Humility), Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle (in Hollywood). He’s halved the number of his tracks and moved away from crossover genres (funk-dub-reggae-dance) towards a retro-futuristic groove. Albarn confirms, as if that’s even necessary, that he still has a lot to say. © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz

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Gorillaz in the magazine