After a drawn-out six-year hiatus, everyone’s favorite animated band Gorillaz has returned to the forefront of music with aplomb. After months of speculation, Gorillaz officially announced their new LP Humanz yesterday. Creators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett have evidently been hard at work, partnering with names like Danny Brown, Pusha T, De La Soul, D.R.A.M., Vince Staples, Grace Jones, and Kali Uchis to produce the album’s 26 tracks. In the lead-up to its release on April 28, we take a rose-tinted look back at the most notable releases by Murdoc, 2D, Noodle and Russel, ranked from least to most worthy of your attention.
5. Tomorrow Comes Today
While Tomorrow Comes Today appears as a single on Gorillaz’s eponymous debut album, it preceded the album drop by several months when it was released as an EP late in 2000. Featuring four tracks, three of which made it onto Gorillaz, the EP was produced by Dan the Automator and represents the band’s first attempt at flexing their musical talents, featuring much of the lo-fi sound that dominated early Gorillaz releases. While it cannot claim the title of their first song (that honor goes to “Ghost Train”,) Tomorrow Comes Today remains a must-listen for fans of the quartet interested in their full historical breadth.
4. The Fall
Released in 2011, The Fall is considered one of Gorillaz’s most experimental albums, owing to the fact that Albarn recorded the album the entire album on his iPad while on the North American leg of the ‘Escape to Plastic Beach’ world tour the previous year. The album also differs from the rest of their discography due to the low number of guest appearances — only four compared to the 13 in Plastic Beach. A trial by fire for Apple’s then-newfangled device, The Fall was first released for free on Christmas Day of 2010 for the band’s official fan club. Its 15 tracks frequently touch upon Albarn’s homesickness and feelings of alienation while touring on the road, The Fall released to mixed reviews, with critics calling it the band’s most quotidian album yet.
3. Plastic Beach
As the band’s third studio album, 2010’s Plastic Beach is considered by many as Gorillaz’s most ambitious album yet. Comprising a kaleidoscopic mish-mash of cultures, Albarn took inspiration from the likes of hip hop, Britpop, Krautrock, funk and dubstep, and collaborated with everyone from Mos Def and Snoop Dogg, to the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. Centered around the theme of ecology — Albarn was first inspired to create the album when he noticed the large amount of plastic debris on the beach neighboring his house — the album made it on several lists as one of the best of the year, giving immense replay value to this day.
Until the release of debut album Gorillaz, the virtual band was largely considered as a side project for former Blur frontman Albarn. But upon its 2005 debut, Gorillaz quickly rose through to the top of worldwide album charts thanks to breakout hits like “Clint Eastwood” and “19-2000.” Many were also captivated by highly experimental nature of the album, which released during an era when pushing the boundaries of hip-hop production, punk rock and electro was oblivious. The Gorillaz LP would receive numerous accolades after selling over six million copies worldwide, and become one of the most defining albums of the early 2000s.
1. Demon Dayz
It’s no understatement to say that “Feel Good Inc.”, the first single from 2005 album Demon Days, essentially defined an entire generation of millennials with its themes of isolationism and escapism. Indeed, the album’s outsized influence often overshadows the contributions from the rest of Gorillaz’s work — often credited to the involvement of Danger Mouse in defining the album’s production. Ultimately selling a whopping 8 million copies worldwide, Demon Days is nowadays remembered as much for its commercial success as for its tackling of pressing political issues in the wake of the invasion of Iraq and the beginnings of widespread disillusionment in the early days of a post-2001 era. Reflecting the mindset of society at large in the midst of uncertain times, Albarn’s “masterwork” is as relevant today as ever, tinted with a hint of nostalgia and more than a generous helping of foreboding.