Damon Albarn is the kind of artist who can do a million things all at once, without looking like he even broke a sweat. In his extensive, 20+ year career he has spearheaded various projects like the Gorillaz and the Brtipop legends, Blur. He has dipped his toes in writing music for operas and films and teamed up with musicians from Mali and The Democratic Republic of Congo, creating music across all genres including alt-rock, jazz and Calypso. His most recent release, Everyday Robots, unfolds as a sleepy, melancholy culmination of all Albarn’s work so far. And if sweat still isn’t showing, a little distress is.
The album creeps in with Everyday Robots, a complex critique of society’s dependence on technology. Sonically, the track is beautiful and explores disconnection with melancholy intimacy. While that may seem contradictory, Albarn’s ability to connect even when feeling disconnected comes from his extensive experience in creating this type of music. During his long tenure in the music business, he has subtly perfected a heavy-heartedness that makes his music so interesting. The next track Hostiles continues with the same creeping, sad sonic structure.
Lonely Press Play uses a lot of the same lyrical ideals as the first two songs on the album, but has more of a jazzy, piano-based sound. This track sounds almost like it could be playing in a fancy restaurant as the soundtrack to a dinner between an older couple attempting to rekindle their love. The album then takes a short turn. Mr. Tembo is a sweet Calypso tune that, apparently, Albarn first sang for a baby elephant he met in Tanzania. Adorable. The song chirps, claps and swells in harmonious celebration. Because of its upbeat sound and layered lyrics that relate back to Albarn’s message of technological disconnection, Mr. Tembo is one of the most effective songs on the album.
The short, beeping instrumental ditty that is Parakeet bridges the gap between the next turning point in the album, where it becomes much more more brooding and moody. The Selfish Giant and Hollow Pond both represent the incrementally gloomy tone of the album. You And Me does this as well, but packs a little more intricacy in its hearty seven minutes. It infuses a little distorted Calypso, acoustic guitar and a bit of vocal experimentation. It’s a commitment, but its beauty pays off.
The rest of the album, especially Photographs (You Are Taking Now), delves into that sleepy side, but puts Albarn’s focus on technology and its negative societal effects slightly to the side, to add a little more introspection. Though it’s a departure from the album’s overall theme and intent, the change in lyrical content is welcomed. Besides, Damon Albarn is an artist who involves himself in project after project, so focused on capturing his own vision, that after two decades of making music, he obviously knows what he is doing enough to go off script a bit.