Damon Albarn, in the days leading up to this year’s culture convention, SXSW, a name somewhat familiar to the lay-listeners — and more than reputable to industry insiders — released his very first standalone work, which immediately sent indie blogs into a frenzy building an Appalachian-sized heap of anticipation. The album’s buzz would only be bolstered by the series of shows at the Austin festival, which explains why his videos’ views are now approaching 1.5 million hits on Youtube. But the question remains, would Damon’s trippy instrumentation and overall abstractness endure on “Everyday Robots?”
Since young millennials have learned Damon Albarn was ½ of the unconventional, brilliant Gorillaz, it’s been impossible to find him separate from the black soul sound. Somehow, Albarn, on “Everyday Robots,” has been able to move away from the hip-hop sounds and soul instruments for the most part. The only qualifier is “Lonely Press Play” with its instrumentation a 70s soul ballad, which might boast alongside subtle ticks and cymbal hits that add a psych-soul element that is also not foreign to the Brits.
From the beginning, “Everyday Robots” slowly drags the listener through the dim mansion of a vampire before you have the euthanizing fangs of his first solo project somberly descend into your aural neck; a mission Albarn, defeated by society’s lack of heterogeneity, achieves in the first half of the album. On the eponymous track, Albarn wastes no time in telling listeners “we’re everday robots on our phones… looking like standing stones.”
“Wandering Pianos,” which Albarn has dubbed his signature since the debut album “Gorillaz,” rides shotgun with his acquiescent vocals.
“Parakeet,” in its short sweetness, hints at the chance one might make it out of the vampire’s mansion alive. The album’s other tidbit, “Seven High,” with its major chords and xylophone, emanates more of the reverie. Both, in their minimal nature, seem to reflect the sliver of hope that remains in Albarn.
About halfway through the sullen diorama comes “You & Me,” a high point for the album all in all. What might be the best part about it is the length, since it’s somewhat disappointing when most of the songs, averaging just over four minutes in duration, end just two minutes after finding their groove.
Albarn’s whirring intros, his underlying sounds, and ability to portray a philosophy through composition admix for an inception of dejection drain the bliss from a base room. Conflicts with technology and other contemporary ills that conceptualize the album may be overlooked but one cannot help but feel a droning from Albarn, who begs for empathy for nature’s sake for forty-six of the most meaningful minutes an album will offer until another brave artist decides to discourse on the essence of humanity.
ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You’re willing to step away from everything contemporary and into a dank arena of 21st century transcendentalism.