Damon Albarn is the musician you never realize you know (at least when you're an American). As the frontman for Britpop behemoth Blur and the voice behind Gorillaz, Albarn has proven himself a musical genius many times over. The first announcement for his solo album came in 2011, just on the heels of the Blur "reunion" that took place in 2009. After four years in the making, Everyday Robots has proven itself to be worth the wait.
Ethereal and a little bit creepy, Everyday Robots opens with the title track and first single, in which Albarn amends his thesis to "Parklife" somewhat by droning, "We are everyday robots on our phones/In the process of getting home." The second song, "Hostiles" finds Albarn picking up where he left off with The Good, the Bad & the Queen. With a similar sound to this short-lived band, Albarn sings, "And the hours pass by/Just left on repeat/It'll be a silent day with you/Fighting off the hostiles." Who the hostiles may be is left to your discretion (though, in an interview, he does mention that hostiles are meant to represent the evil presences in video games).
"Lonely Press Play" has a, shall we say, funkier sound. Continuing his comment on modern life (still rubbish), Albarn urges, "If you're lonely, press play." Because, really, that's all you have to do in the twenty-first century to feel like you're connected. Is it misguided to think he's still talking about Justine Frischmann when he says, "You're not resolved in your heart/You're waiting for me to improve"?
The tempo of the album becomes more upbeat on "Mr. Tembo." Telling the tale of Mr. Tembo (just like Ernold Same and Mr. Robinson before him), Albarn is joined occasionally by the bursting vocals of a choir as he rehashes, "Mr. Tembo's on his way up the hill/With only this song to tell you how feels." You're never really, sure, in the end, how exactly he feels. But, to give you some background, Albarn wrote it about a Tanzanian baby elephant.
"Parakeet" expresses a whimsical musical tone, and then quickly segues into "The Selfish Giant," which could also be the name of a beautiful Gabriel Garcia Marquez poem (and also features Natasha Khan from Bat For Lashes). In fact, this track is easily one of the most poetic on Everyday Robots. Albarn in his forlorn romantic manner, croons, "I had a dream you were leaving/It's hard to be a lover when the TV's on/Press yourself to me right now/Push yourself deep down now."
"You & Me" (not to be confused with the Cassie song "Me & U") delves into yet another musical motif reminiscent of The Good, the Bad & the Queen. Slow and melancholic, the song is an indication of Albarn's self-exploratory sentiment during the recording of the album as he notes, "Sometimes I look at the morning/Trying to work out how I got here." The eighth track, "Hollow Ponds," is Albarn at his most sinister sounding. Mentioning the early 90s in his distinctly downbeat and contemplative tone, this song is the one to listen to on an especially grey rainy day in London.
"Seven High" is a one-minute musical piece heavy on piano that shifts nicely into "Photographs (You Are Taking Now)." A somewhat cautionary tale, Albarn seems to warn against being overly sentimental and taking pictures without thought to the future of their contents--both people and scenery. He sings, "When the photographs you're taking now/Are taken now/Press send," almost as though to say, send it before you have the chance to regret it. A man's voice is interspersed throughout, warning, "This is a precious opportunity/Beware of the photographs you are taking now."
"The History of a Cheating Heart" is as disconsolate as you would expect, with Albarn defending, "The history of the cheating heart is always more than you know." The next track, "Heavy Seas of Love" is the most interesting offering on Everyday Robots in terms of how divergent it is from the rest of the music. With a similar intonation to "Tender," this is by far among Albarn's most joyful song in any aspect of his career. And, most importantly, it features Brian Eno.
"Father's Daughter's Son," the first of two bonus tracks, continues the jubilant style presented on "Heavy Seas of Love," though to a lesser degree. The final song returns to the rough-hewn edge of slow tempo Damon Albarn--often seen on Think Tank. "Empty Club," incidentally, could very well be Albarn's homage to describing his album as centered around "empty club music." Indeed, no one knows this sound quite as well.
While Albarn may always be pigeonholed as the ringleader of Britpop (much to Noel and Liam's chagrin), Everyday Robots shows his evermore palpable breaking away from his musical past.