After seven years out of the spotlight, Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and an abundance of talent have come together to make Humanz, quite frankly one of the best albums in recent memory. It’s no secret that the album has been in the works for a while, with Albarn being spotted with different faces in different places over the past year or so, and when news crept up regarding Demon Dayz festival in June, people went crazy over the prospect of new music. Alas, when he appeared on BBC Radio 1 with Mistajam to premiere two new tracks, the reality had come to face us – we were getting a new Gorillaz album.
The 20-song-long-tracklist (26 for deluxe) has a copious amount of features, from Hip-Hop legends and past collaborators De La Soul to past Blur opposition Noel Gallagher. Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms for the album from people is the fact there is so many features and it takes away from Gorillaz themselves, but the spotlight is never meant to be on Gorillaz. The band have been able to weave their way through the world for nearly two decades now due to the fact they can provide so much to the supporting acts on the albums they make. Looking back through their albums you can see how their features come about more and more frequently, and it’s not just potluck or randomly selected people on the album, it’s handpicked by the guys. On the ‘In Conversation with Gorillaz’ interview on YouTube last week, Russell said when asked why there’s so many features stated “We’re trying to bring in people, that have affected the world recent to whenever we bring out the album you dig?” And when it’s put like that, you can see the thought process to this album’s features. Vince Staples, one of the hottest up and comers in Hip-Hop to Danny Brown, a known name who brought out a critically acclaimed album last year. Benjamin Clementine, a fantastic singer making massive waves with his splendid voice, as well as that there is obviously just names that will always be relevant such as the magnificent and legendary Grace Jones to platinum selling R&B singer Anthony Hamilton.
Gorillaz – Saturnz Barz (Spirit House)
The album’s narrative is that of ‘a party for the end of the world’ as said by Damon Albarn to Pusha T. He told the rapper to think of something such as Donald Trump becoming President back in Spring 2016, which back then was just a horrible, horrible joke. Regardless, as the album goes on you can see it, with references and lyrics to the ill-fated world we live in today. However, there is no mention of Trump on the album as Damon removed them all, stating he didn’t want to make the world’s most famous man anymore famous. Bravo.
Let Me Out ft. Mavis Staples & Pusha T
The album is really pieced together by the fantastic production as always, the synthy bass on ‘Andromeda’ and the guitar charged ‘Charger’, it’s something they’ve always managed to do so well. The unusual but captivating Gorillaz sound is out in full force, something people felt was missing from their 2010 piece The Fall. Something you have to give to the virtual band is the fact they have such a broad sound but you know a Gorillaz song when you hear it. You can hear a light keyboard or a hip-hop influenced beat and you know it’s them. This is a theme of the album, different sounds coming together to create what is really a beautiful capturing of some of the greatest musicians in the world, the beauty that can come out of the destruction and nastiness of the world is all here.
Andromeda ft. D.R.A.M
Although it’s hard to pick the highlights of the album, my favourite offering has to be She’s My Collar. Sounding like Space – the indie band of ‘Female of the Species’ fame – not the vast place outside Earth. 2D’s monotone but enchanting vocals are there, coupled with underground singer Kali Uchis they blend together perfectly. “I don’t take her number just don’t think I’d call her” is a lyric that is just the definition of cool and it’s that impression that Gorillaz are able to give off, a virtual band are able to seem cooler than most people, it’s very impressive. Popcaan’s feature on Saturnz Barz is another highlight, the dancehall icon was able to shine on this track and again the aforementioned monotone/enchanting 2D vocals help bring out something reminiscent to their first album. There isn’t really any lowlights of the album, maybe a bit more of a correlation between some songs would have been better, but although it isn’t a perfect album it is certainly up there with the best albums in recent years. We’re fortunate enough to get another album out of a seemingly novelty band from 2000, who have done nothing but create boundary-pushing music for years, here’s to more of the same from them!
Words by Rohan Parmar.