Gorillaz have spent the past year dishing out jaw-dropping live performances across the U.S. and Europe, but during his spare time, Damon Albarn reveals that he’s been working on the group’s next record.
In an interview with NME, Albarn discloses that he hopes to release the new record before Christmas. “It’s a studio album made in hotel rooms across America,” says Albarn. “I guess it’s my love letter to America,” he told the UK Guardian. “I used to be baffled by this place, and I guess I still am in some ways; America confused me enormously. But right now, with all that’s going on, this is a good place to be and this has been a great tour.” To NME, he describes the “American-sounding” album: “It sounds like an English voice that has been put through a vocoder of America.”
Albarn recorded the upcoming release in a remarkably unconventional way. “I’ve made it on an iPad — I hope I’ll be making the first record on an iPad,” he tells NME. “I fell in love with my iPad as soon as I got it, so I’ve made a completely different kind of record.”
On top of that, Albarn just formed a new supergroup featuring Flea on bass and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen. Albarn has stated that he’s three-quarters finished with the unnamed group’s debut.
Here’s a remix of “Superfast Jellyfish” by Don Diablo. The original is on Gorillaz’s 2010 release, Plastic Beach.
Leave any attachment to cartoon characters behind. Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s animated oddballs served as an interesting concept at the onset and propelled the intrigue of their project into the mainstream, but on the third Gorillaz release, Plastic Beach (2010), it seems they’ve left behind the idea that Gorillaz is purely a vehicle for a cartoon fronted federation. The former Blur frontman has transcended the futuristic wiliness of the original image, creating one of the best records of 2010, one that is innovative, powerful, eclectic, and soulfully diverse. Truth be told. Gorillaz are real.
Damon Albarn and British cartoonist Jamie Hewlett started the fictional cartoon band in 1998. The band was instantly successful with their self-titled debut album (2001) which included songs “19-2000″ and “Clint Eastwood”. The concept band was composed of four animated members: 2D (lead vocalist, keyboard), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboard, and occasional vocals) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion). The character’s fictional universe is explored throughout the band’s website and music videos. The due released Demon Days (2005) with smash hit “Feel Good Inc.” and “Dirty Harry” and five years later, Plastic Beach.
Filled with guest cameos from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, De La Soul, and the enigmatic Little Dragon, Plastic Beach rides on the formidable musicality and flawless production Gorillaz lovers have come to rely on. The album’s scope and depth as it meshes hip-hop, electronica, and pop is more engaging as a whole. It’s a concept album with a clear message about the Earth’s deflowering by pollution and snowballing technology. The record marks the first time Albarn has produced a Gorillaz album in its entirety after yielding the boards to Automator and Danger Mouse on previous efforts.
Plastic Beach opens with a dramatic, orchestral intro yet quickly runs into the sexy “Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach” featuring none other than the saucy, one and only, Snoop Dogg, dogmatizing that the “revolution will be televised… push peace and keep it in motion”. Look through the doom to behold the beauty beyond is the manifesto held in Albarn’s world.
“White Flag” reveals more of Albarn’s imaginings via hard hitting, hip-hop wrapped in samples and the lyrical prowess of Brit MC’s Bashy and Kano juxtaposed with sugar sweet melodies unraveling from The National Orchestra for Arabic Music. “No war, no guns, No corps, just life, Just love, no hate, Just fun, no ties, Just me and my mind, Just me and my wife.” No walls and jails on this paradise that rains condoms.
Albarn’s voice leads “Rhinestone Eyes” as he voices climatic concerns with syncopated fluidity atop electricity filled synth lines. And there’s “Stylo” with soulful vocals from Albarn and Bobby Womack plus raps from Mos Def expertly meshed with swirling electronics and unrelenting beats pushing you further into another dimension. Electric is the love.
“Superfast Jellyfish” is light and silly. Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys & De La Soul collaborate on this microwave-meal-fast-food biting spoof adding another dimension to the album’s already apparent multiplicity. And then the dreamy “Empire Ants” begins, easily taking the title of most compelling and gorgeous track on the record. The slow, subtle intro by Albarn leads to a fully electrifying song body rich with the alluring vocals of Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano. The beats are to die for. “Empire Ants” the perfect soundtrack for a spontaneous dance party on the street with your car speakers blaring.
“Some King of Nature” stands out with deftly spoken lyrics from luminary Lou Reed who adds something entirely bizarre and psychedelic to Albarn’s cough syrup dripping choruses. “Melancholy Hill” causes the energy to drop off, but “Broken” picks it back up again with eerie melodies leading into nighttime driven musings about distant galaxies. The slow pace is irresistible. The album winds and turns through the rest of it’s 18 track sand then swiftly drifts into two movie score ready tracks, “Pirate’s Progress” and “Three Hearts, Seven Seas, Twelve Moons”.
Plastic Beach captures your imagination and triggers a full-color, 3D listening experience. The album is stunning in its entirety and is one of Albarn’s most fully developed musical conceptions yet. The pretense of the animated band has clearly been surpassed. And there might be more to come. Albarn recorded more than 70 songs for this release, and the designing pair is apparently considering sequels.
Gorillaz debuted Plastic Beach at Coachella 2010 and arguably played one of the most dynamic sets of the festival. Live, the band includes Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash along with Cass Browne (The Senseless Things) and a number of talented musicians and guests, which at Coachella included Mos Def, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Little Dragon, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The 35-date international tour in support of the album began this October with 5 U.S. dates still remain including Denver, Phoenix, L.A., Oakland, and Seattle. Catch them if you can. It just might be one of the most epic shows you see all year.
Oct 24 – Wells Fargo Theatre, Denver, CO
Oct 26 – Dodge Theatre, Phoenix, AZ
Oct 27 – Gibson Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, CA
Oct 30 – Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
Nov 2 – Key Arena, Seattle, WA
As El Guicho explains at the beginning of his new video, we are about to journey to “explore the cosmos in a ship of our imagination… [and] the ship will take us to worlds of dreams.” This video must be the visualization of Díaz-Reixa’s dream world. He launches a golden cassette tape off a cliff and takes us on a psychotropic trip filled with innumerable bare breasts, sexual innuendos, a woman lighting a cigarette from a match poised in a bird’s beak, the murder of a stuffed panda, a beauty painted entirely in gold and many things purely unexplainable. The video is stimulating and complex, the song familiar albeit futuristic.
The piece serves as the trailer for a film that shares the name “Bombay” and evokes filmmaker Nicolás Mendez’s interpretation of El Guincho’s 2nd release, Pop Negro. It begins with El Guincho playing astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan, parodying Sagan’s idiosyncratic documentary style, and ends with the expected, more beautiful bare breasts.
Spanish musician Pablo Díaz-Reixa is El Guincho. He spent his early days on the Canary Isles, alienated from the 80s pop culture. Primarily a boy of the beach and the ocean, he eventually discovered his passion for film and music, which he then nurtured in Paris and Barcelona. The resulting sound infuses styles as disparate as Animal Collective and Os Mutantes and relies heavily on interlocking samples, auto-harmonizing pop choruses, and heavily syncopated beats. Díaz-Reixa describes his music, imbued with island sounds, the bouyancy of tropicalia, and pop precision, as “space-age exotica”.
His breakthrough record, Alegranza (2008), launched the Spanish artist high into the indie music blogosphere and sent him to perform several highly anticipated shows at Austin’s SXSW. “Bombay” is off Díaz-Reixa’s recent release, Pop Negro (2010). His second album, like the first, is a mix of afro-beat percussion, world music samples, uptempo beats, and exotic production. Díaz-Reixa began producing the album shortly after the release of Alegranza and it became 18-months in the making. Three months into the recording process, at Berlin’s infamous Planet Roc studio, Díaz-Reixa returned to the Canary Islands to serve as a wind surfing instructor in order to raise the money to justly finish the project.
Díaz-Reixa has extended his reach into a variety of other projects, including adding music to Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, performing with his rock band, Coconot, and working in Spanish film and television.
El Guincho appears in the U.S. this week with two L.A. dates (Oct 7 – The Standard Hotel and Oct 8 – Spaceland) and one in San Francisco (Oct 9 – Elbo Room)!
This summer I was whisked away on the festival circuit leaving little time to share what’s been exciting my ears. That likely hurt me more than it hurt you. But I’m back to reflect on what is coming out now and to make sure that you are hearing it as well.
As I get the gears revolving, here are a few tunes which caught me this summer…
People should move to Colorado just for Red Rocks. That venue with its perfect sight lines and sound set within two majestic red rock slabs doesn’t get any better on a warm summer evening like last night. Vampire Weekend blew it off the charts. My favorite quote of the night from Ezra Koenig, “You guys look nice at an angle.”
The band came out at a 10 and the audience gave it all back. The energy swirling between the rocks was palpable and Koenig repeatedly commented on the communal feeling wafting from the audience. “We haven’t been to the Denver area since we started touring… You guys are amazing.” The band rewarded fans with the second ever played Contra and a set that both highlighted their keen musicianship and a knack for writing short gems blending danceable influences from around the globe. Every song they unleashed off their two albums differed from the studio cuts, increasing the feel that we were getting something truly special.
Best view walking to the parking lot ever. I relished in the sounds of people yelling in appreciation as I made my way to the car. Last night was the most beautiful show I’ve been to in ages. It made me cry.
Vampire Weekend is one of the best live acts touring now. Go see them.
The Westword Music Showcase is Denver’s very own version of SXSW, albeit a smaller one. The yearly event, hosted by the free alternative weekly across 8 blocks of the Denver’s Golden Triangle neighborhood lasts just one day. But don’t let this take away from the fact that it is one of the best events in the area to take in the burgeoning Denver music scene and catch some amazing national acts as well. And it’s cheap. Just $15 in advance and $30 day of.
This year’s event has one of the best lineups to date for indie fans with headliners including Ghostland Observatory (Austin), Dirty Projectors, and Neon Indian. Other stand-out local acts include The Still City, Eleanor, Hello Kavita, Taun Taun, and Kill Paradise. See below for Lux’s picks for this year’s Westword Music Showcase.
School of Seven Bells trigger psychedelic expeditions into colorful soundscapes infused with the sensual vocals of twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza and the ethereal guitar wanderings of Benjamin Curtis. Their multi-layered songs are saturated with melting guitar tones, lush vocal harmonies, raw synths, electronica-edged beats, and heavy production. The band’s love for rhythm, atmosphere and melody is overwhelmingly apparent throughout their explorations.
The members of School of Seven Bells met on tour supporting Interpol in 2004, Curtis performing with Secret Machines and the Dehezas with On!Air!Library!. When first exposed to his future bandmates, Curtis perceived a rare vibe and communication between the girls and fell deeply in love with the sound. Alejandra revealed to Curtis her dreams for a collective entitled School of Seven Bells. The name stems from a fabled training academy of thieves and pickpockets in Columbia. They began making music here and there and by 2007 put some tracks together that they had affection for and released them as the Face to Face on High Places EP. That same year, the band began touring and had the fortune to support both Blonde Redhead and Prefuse 73 on the road.
Initially, the group spent time translating elements programmed in the studio to other musicians who could fill them out in the live setting. Soon, they began featuring the tracks as originally created. If the sounds were programmed, they’d leave it that way, and if they played them themselves, they’d play it on stage. The sound became more honest and the evolution was liberating, enabling the group to remain a trio.
School of Seven Bells’ debut album Alpinism was released in 2008 on Ghostly International. The trio fused their two disparate previous projects into a new sound anchored in gorgeous, winding melodies and beguiling synth backdrops. The recording is glittery and uplifting, peaceful and hymn-like, yet at points dark and tension-filled. Each track is a distinct being, possessing its very own magic. The distorted vocals on “Chain” gorgeously lean in the direction of Black Moth. And at points, School of Seven Bells recall another one of Brooklyn babies, St. Vincent. In 2009, they supported Alpinism on tours with both Bat for Lashes and Black Moth Super Rainbow.
The trio recently announced that Disconnect from Desire, their 2nd full-length release, will drop via Vagrant/Ghostly International and Full Time Hobby in Europe on July 13th. The album, produced by band member Benjamin Curtis and mixed by Jack Joseph Puig, was recorded in the band’s home studio in Brooklyn. “Babelonia” is the gorgeously fuzzy first track off the album, which they’ve released for free into the blogosphere.
“From the start, we knew we wanted to make a record that connected on more of a direct and personal level than we ever had before,” Curtis revealed in a statement regarding Disconnect. “It’s a complete account of our lives this past year, and it’s crazy how taking an honest look at yourself can tell you the most about the world around you.”
In support of the release, the trio will perform one date at The Echo in Los Angeles on June 2nd and two at the Mercury Lounge in NYC on June 9 and 10. And in July, the band will journey abroad to the Netherlands, the U.K., Germany and Australia.
Last year, SoSB brought another atmospheric dream pop group on the road with them, upstate New York’s Phantogram. With their thudding beats, lush synthesizers, psychedelic art-rock and interchange of male/female vocals, Phantogram creates dazzling sounds reminiscent of SoSB. Don’t miss Phantogram on tour throughout the U.S. in May and June. May 13th brings them to the Larimer Lounge in Denver. They’ll also hit Sasquatch in 2010.
At the end of a weekend of award-winning sets, blue skies, and hipper-than-hip crowds, an esteemed analyst of mine pronounced that Gorillaz had won Coachella. After falling for the title, I’m compelled to share who made the grade, offered stand-out sets, and made Coachella what it is: the picking ground for some of the best artists performing now.
Several acts were immediately taken out of the contest due to their inability to get to the festival. The Cribs, Gary Numan, Bad Lieutenant, and Delphic fell pray to flight cancellations as a result of the plume of volcanic ash from Iceland that descended on the UK and parts of Scandinavia during the week prior to the festival. Sly Stone has been disqualified as well due to the last minute postponement of his Sunday set until later that evening and the difficulty he had making it through his own songs.
While the remaining 130+ artists competed enthusiastically, the Lux votes are in and it’s a tie between Gorillaz and Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace. The remaining titles have been awarded respectively to Dirty Projectors, The Whitest Boy Alive, Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit, Phoenix, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, LCD Soundsystem, Jónsi, Pretty Lights, Vampire Weekend, La Roux, Jay-Z, Hot Chip, Pavement, MGMT, Gossip, The Avett Brothers and Little Dragon.
Owen Pallett’s geeky laugh, the longest bout of insanely loud distortion from Girls, and Mutemath’s Paul Meany performing flips on and over his keyboard made for other memorable Coachella moments.
Special thanks to Ra Ra Riot, Local Natives, Little Boots, Beach House, Sia, Miike Snow, Flying Lotus, Sleigh Bells, and Imogen Heap for playing. You have each been awarded an honorable mention.
Last place goes to Tiësto. You can’t win when you insist on being louder than every other artist to perform and drown out your competitors.
Congratulations to Coachella for their first sell out in the festival’s 12 years. Your decision to hold the fest on the meticulously manicured and palm-tree lined grounds of the Empire Polo Fields in California where the weather might be the finest in the nation might warrants you the prize of best indie festival around.
#1 – Gorillaz
The Gorillaz set was all over the map in terms of music diversity. Quality beats and grooves drove audience members to produce their best dance moves yet. Who needs holographic bandmates when you’ve got a live band made up of the Hypnotic Brash Ensemble and a long list of guests including former Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, Little Dragon, De La Soul, Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack. MySpace|Website
#1 – Atoms For Peace
Thom Yorke’s music is meant for large scale productions like Coachella. The incredible presence of Yorke live with Flea adding his electrifying bass lines truly brought The Eraser to life. Thick beats, resounding piano lines, psychedelic interludes and Yorke’s haunting vocals created an entirely cathartic experience built on inspired song-writing. MySpace|Website
#3 – Dirty Projectors
With chanteurs that sound like birds, Dirty Projectors dazzled listeners with their experimental sonic alchemy. The beauty of Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Deckle’s voices shone radiantly alongside the intricate and unique musical stylings of their compatriots. The power of this group live is something to behold. MySpace|Website
#4 – The Whitest Boy Alive
Some of the best music I heard all weekend came from this band out of Berlin. I’ve had a lasting affection for Kings of Convenience, which made it even more exciting when I heard KoC lead singer Erlend Øye’s new project. Øye has dove headfirst into an entirely original form of electro-dance music. His unique vocals fraternize perfectly with the band’s funk guitar lines, smooth keyboard melodies and dance-heavy bass and drums grooves. After the set ended, Øye came out to slap hands with the remaining fans, sing a few lines with them, and proudly wave the German flag that was tossed to him. MySpace|Website
#5 – Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear put other artists to shame with their voluptuous 4-part harmonies. The sounds created a thick atmosphere drenched in their deeply textured psychedelic pop. The audience was moved and accepted the invitation into their sonicly rich world. MySpace|Website
#6 – Passion Pit
One of the best synth-pop band out there electrified their audience as the sun dropped over the mountains in Indio on Friday. Offering their realm of highly danceable pop grooves, Passion Pit glimmered and soared. The blissed out crowd reciprocated with elation-filled singing and tumbling exuberance. MySpace|Website
#7 – Phoenix
Phoenix’s sparkling indie-pop has clearly taken the U.S. by storm. Their infectious set on Sunday was packed as Coachella-goers drank in the energetic performance by France’s new sensation. Crowds sang along, danced hard, and demonstrated unabashed love for Phoenix. The band’s lighting designer got caught up in flight delays in Europe but no need when you have an engaging Thomas Mars writhing on stage and getting down into the audience to sing the set’s closer. MySpace|Website
#8 – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ hippy, communal vibe and jubilant feel-good tunes created the perfect soundtrack for Coachella on Saturday. The band took their audience on a magical trip into their realm of love, hope, and happiness and for the trippers I saw, it couldn’t get any better. The female vocalists surfed the crowd in short dresses and the tangible intimacy between Alex and Jane could be felt no matter how far back one might have been. MySpace|Website
#9 – LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy’s disco-tinged, dance-punk, David Byrne-recalling set on the main stage of Coachella Friday night magnified the impact of his imaginative musical world. Murphy was egoless, at points even apologetic, inspiring the audience to equally let down their hair and let go of self-consciousness. The band consistently wowed those ready to dance with heavy synth and explosive drum fills, ridden by Murphy’s smart, lyrical meanderings. MySpace|Website
#10 – Jónsi
Jónsi’s uplifting sounds created the perfect daytime set at Coachella. The exclusion of the fantastical theatre set and projections that accompany the rest of his spring tour enabled fans to focus on Jónsi’s pure musical gift. Flawless falsetto, glistening crescendos, and orchestral embellishments washed over the crowd as the sun warmed them. MySpace|Website
#11 – Pretty Lights
Colorado sent their best and brightest to Coachella to incite audiences with cutting-edge dance beats, heavy funk grooves, diverse hip-hop samples, and eletro psychedlia. It went off. Who cares if it’s daytime when you’re in the Sahara tent dancing to Derek Vincent Smith’s sonic intuition coming to life coupled with the venue’s over-the-top lights, lasers, projections, LED screens and surround sound speakers. MySpace|Website
#12 – Vampire Weekend
The band’s energetic, youthful enthusiasm and deft musicianship infused their performance, which drew on favorites from both of the group’s records. The highlight of the set came when Ezra Koenig shared his love of screaming by encouraging the audience to just let it all go and join in as he shrieked the chorus of “Blakes Got A New Face.” MySpace|Website
#13 – La Roux
La Roux’s set in the Gobi tent might have been the most packed performance of the weekend next to Florence And The Machine. The young crowd went wild for Eleanor Jackson’s synth-driven dance-pop and sugar-sweet vocals. MySpace|Website
#14 – Jay-Z
Classic beats, Jay-Z’s smooth stylings, his evident love for his fans, an unannounced cameo from Beyoncé, and spectacular visual backdrops made for stellar entertainment Friday eve. Just the kind of set you’d expect from the first hip-hop headliner ever at Coachella. MySpace|Website
#15 – Hot Chip
U.K’s electro-pop ambassadors created a massive dance party on Coachella’s Outdoor Stage on Saturday. “It’s our third time at Coachella,” Alexis Taylor told the crowd, “and this is the most fun we’ve ever had.” The high-energy set, based mostly on the group’s latest release, One Life Stand (2010), wove the band’s synth explorations within elegantly placed samples all topped by Taylor’s pastel-colored vocals. MySpace|Website
#16 – Pavement
The legendary indie rockers played one of their first sets in 11 years, proving both their legitimacy and renewed energy. The show was filled with self-effacing humor, dynamic favorites from their vast catalog, and plenty of moments that reminded the audience of what they’d been missing in the 00′s. The set was a redeeming one as many fans consider their performance at Coachella #1 in 1999 as one of the worst Pavement sets ever resulting from the band being burned out and annoyed with each. Plus Stephen Malkamus almost lost his voice from allegedly scorching his throat on a bad-bong hit. MySpace|Website
#17 – MGMT
MGMT have emerged in 2010 as one of the most eccentric band’s on the indie scene with their new release Congratulations (2010). While the audience wasn’t as familiar with the new material, the band didn’t care as they tore through a set of psychedelic wanderings, melodic detours, and Beach Boys-esque harmonies with unabashed ardor. While certainly bizarre, it was hard not to respect the band’s dedication to their evolving sound. MySpace|Website
#18 – Gossip
Beth Ditto might have been the ultimate diva at Coachella despite her stiff competition, namely from Little Boots’ Victoria Hesketh. Ditto controlled the crowd with her powerhouse vocals, enchanting self-assurance, and unabashed elation. The appropriate response? Grin ear-to-ear and dance along with her. MySpace|Website
#19 – The Avett Brothers
The Avett’s played a moving set of tunes to an enamored audience soon after the gates opened on Friday. Closing with “I and Love and You”, the band invited the crowd to sing along and sent the audience on their way wrapped in their heartfelt lyrics. MySpace|Website
#20 – Little Dragon
Sweden’s Little Dragon gave off their bizarre sounds topped by Yukimi Nagano’s sultry vocals to sweet response. Filled with synth, ambient noises, and multi-layered musical explorations all backed by a steady beat, the Gobi tent relented, entering their strange world and keeping in the groove. MySpace|Website