Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

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Frontman of 90s Britpop pioneers Blur, and musical mastermind behind the virtual hip-hop group Gorillaz, Damon Albarn has undoubtedly made quite an imprint on British music during his time in the industry. Yet, through all this time, he has never released a full solo album—until Everyday Robots. Albarn has many years of experience in the music industry, but nearly all of it in the form of collaborations with other artists: with Everyday Robots he proves that he’s got more than the required experience to still come out with some incredible music without his usual band of collaborators.

The opener, title-track and first single ‘Everyday Robots’, is elegant and haunting. Slightly discordant strings and mechanical drums set the pace as Albarn paints a powerful visual image of the “everyday robots” in question: the human race. The track flawlessly depicts the automated routine of  a day-to-day commute, and it’s beautiful. The instrumental backing is repetitive, but rather than becoming boring or grating, it only serves to add to the image of the daily grind of the commute. It’s a stunning opening track, and sets a high standard for the rest of the album to follow.

It doesn’t disappoint. The third track, ‘Lonely Press Play’, is minimalism done to perfection: there’s not a single element that doesn’t absolutely justify its presence. Albarn’s past work is faintly audible here (this could almost be a B-side from one of the later Gorillaz albums) but it’s distinct enough to not feel like a copy. It’s a bit fuller-sounding than ‘Everyday Robots’ and the second track, ‘Hostiles’, with strings and percussion both taking more established, prominent roles, but still feels pared-back and simple enough to fit in with the rest of the album so far.

The relaxed tempo of the first three tracks picks up in ‘Mr Tembo’, the fourth—a chirpy ukulele and an all-round African influence makes this track the busiest and most cheerful so far. There’s a lot more going on, but again, nothing feels unnecessary, and the build in both mood and complexity has been a gradual affair throughout the first few tracks, so nothing about ‘Mr Tembo’ feels out of place.

Track seven, ‘You & Me’ revives the haunting melancholy of the title track in a meandering seven-minute song, complete with steel pan solo and some gorgeous multitracked vocals after the three-minute-mark. It’s a slight departure from the style of the tracks preceding it, but it is faultlessly executed, and at this point any similarity to Albarn’s previous endeavours has faded completely—he’s found a new sound, which really sets this track apart.

It would be incredibly easy to find equally complimentary things to say about every single other track on this album: several times already I’ve described individual tracks on Everyday Robots as having nothing superfluous, and every element being able to justify its place, and the same holds true for the album as a whole. It’s nigh-on impossible to pick out the best tracks, because everything fits perfectly in its place on the album.

It’s beautifully minimal and stripped back. It feels very natural and acoustic, but Albarn has not been afraid to make use of more modern electronic sounds here and there: these blend perfectly, adding to each track without ever becoming a focal point. Everyday Robots is laced with quiet intelligence, each individual track, as well as the album as a whole all feeling perfectly balanced and well thought out. Albarn’s long-standing tenure in the British music industry has resulted in a sound far more mature than one would expect from a debut solo album, and it would be difficult to find any flaws in this record whatsoever.

10/10

Everyday Robots will be available from 28th April.

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As The Edge's resident design monkey (and occasional album reviewer), Joe can usually be found sweating over a Wacom tablet colouring in drawings of celebrities, or getting over-excited about typography.

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