Twenty years after he became a Brit-pop poster boy as lead singer of Blur, Damon Albarn has released his first solo album.
He’s been busy in the meantime, fronting cartoon hip-hop band Gorillaz, forming the supergroup The Good, the Bad and the Queen and even writing a couple of operas. So Everyday Robots is hardly the work of a novice — rather of a man in his 40s looking back with a mixture of wonder and regret.
The songs, suffused with nostalgic melancholy, blend the digital and the organic, scattering samples of speech and street sounds over electronic beats, winsome guitar and plinky piano.
Lyrically, Albarn explores the tension between isolation and connection in the digital age, and the feelings of guilt and absolution that come with aging.
The melancholy title track sets the tone, with Albarn’s vulnerable vocals laid over ragged samples and jagged violin. It’s an understated number that worms its way under the skin.
Hostiles and Hollow Ponds continue the mood of languid reverie, while You and Me refers to Albarn’s long-ago use of heroin, a drug he has said he found alluring and dangerous.
There are a couple of more up-tempo numbers in Mr. Tembo — an ode to an orphaned baby elephant — and Heavy Seas of Love, a low-key sing-along featuring Brian Eno and a church choir.
More typical of the bittersweet mood are Lonely Press Play (“If you’re lonely, press play”) and the lovely, delicately hopeful Photographs (You Are Taking Now).
Everyday Robots is an album of subtle pleasures.
— Jill Lawless
Everything to Lose
How far would you go to protect your loved ones? What if keeping your special needs child in an expensive, properly caring environment meant having to break the law? Would you do it?
Author Andrew Gross forces readers to grapple with the extremes one must go through to survive in such a situation in his new novel, Everything to Lose.
Hilary Cantor’s deadbeat ex-husband doesn’t pay child support. Their son, Brandon, is autistic, and his school is very expensive. Hilary is desperate after she loses her job. How will she pay for her child’s schooling?
She witnesses a car crash while driving home one afternoon. The car slides down a ravine. Hilary climbs and scratches her way to the car, where she discovers a dead man and a satchel filled with money. She tosses the bag into a bush and leaves.
As time passes, Hilary cannot grasp the financial collapse that is about to hit her. She goes back to the site of the crash and finds the money. She begins to use just enough to pay her bills. What she doesn’t realize is that someone was expecting the money — and will do anything to find it.
Everything to Lose will grab readers from the book’s opening pages.
— Jeff Ayers
Twenty-three years is a long time between drinks, and that’s what’s passed between The Pixies’ last studio album (1991’s Trompe le Monde) and this handsome cobbling-together of new EPs, recorded with original members (Black Francis, Joey Santiago, David Lovering) and their premier producer, Gil Norton.
In this reteaming, with several still-raw bruises (not to mention their well-documented shifts in female bassists), The Pixies’ instrumental menace and spidery arrangements are zealously intact, along with their signature start-and-stop-on-a-dime dynamics, jangle-crunch guitars, and Francis’ insistently icy allusions to grouchy gods and mopey monsters of all stripes.
Like much of Indie Cindy’s best, a savage song such as Bagboy would be right at home on their classic album Doolittle. Not that Francis’ corrosive kvetches, moans and heated hollers — or the band’s instrumental wall of woe — sounds dated. Their ferocity feels particularly fresh-yet-familiar on tracks such as Andro Queen. What’s updated is the sound, the way tunes like What Goes Boom and Snakes bound from your speakers, whether spin-cycle slow or ragingly hyperactive.
One complaint: Indie Cindy should have included newer songs beyond the recent-and-very-recently released EPs.
— A.D. Amorosi