Everyday Robots Album Review: Damon Albarn

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At the height of the mid 90's Britpop boom Blur's Damon Albarn was pitted against the more rugged boys in Oasis for one of the biggest tabloid feuds of the decade.

Blur was portrayed as dandy, upper-crust Brit's who had little respect for the world outside the British Isles.

But as the decade continued, Albarn and company began to grow less interested in English classicism and began respecting American indie rock like Pavement and Sonic Youth.

Then Albarn broke up with his longterm girlfriend (Elastica's Justine Frishmann) and the resulting music was arty and insular.

Albarn is such an important musician because of his willingness to re-invent himself.

Just like Prince or David Bowie as soon as you have him pegged as a depressed, noise-rock curator (on 1999's Blur album 13) he then created the global, hiphop, animated super group Gorillaz, and had a worldwide smash with the track "Clint Eastwood." He traveled to Africa and collaborates with villagers on 2002's "Mali Music." The former dandy-brit collaborated with legit New York City rappers De La Soul on the hit 2005 track "Feel Good Inc." As soon as you have him figured out, Damon zigs when you expect him to zag.

Fast forward to 2014 and Damon is finally releasing his actual debut solo album Everyday Robots. Best believe Damon always helmed every album he has created in his nearly 30 year career. But Everyday Robots is an interesting entry in his catalogue due to the fact that he has a new co-producer, Richard Russell, owner of XL Recordings. It gives the record a fresh feel.

This is night music, more interested with critiquing modern ways than starting a party or getting in the mood of romance. The title track begins the album on a somber note with glitchy electronics backing up chopped up keyboard lines.

The lyrics are concerned with "everyday robots on our phones," everyone isolated while in public just to head home and be isolated there. Not exactly uplifting but certainly a new flavor in the Damon Albarn cannon.

"Lonely Press Play" is one of his greatest compositions of the past decade, a quietly inspiring track set to a beautiful melody and a beat that sounds like a broken old cassette player malfunctioning. "Mr.

Tembo" has a slightly tropical feel with a more upbeat happy melody.

"You and I" is the album's epic, five minutes or dark English folk, until the skies part and Damon ends the song with a completely new vocal chorus which is so catchy, you understand why Damon is one of the most important songwriters of the past few decades.

The record ends on a high note with a powerful collaboration with Brian Eno, "Heavy Seas Of Love."

All in all, Everyday Robots finds Mr. Albarn pushing reset on his career with a tight set of songs that all sound of a piece.

While it may not be the pop-classic of Blur's Parklife, or the global genre mash up of Gorillaz self-titled album, Everyday Robots is a work that captures 2014 perfectly. I give Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn 4 and 1/2 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.

For more on Damon Albarn: http://www.damonalbarnmusic.com