A 10 Album Introduction To Damon Albarn

A 10 Album Introduction To Damon Albarn

Ten of Damon Albarn's greatest albums in preparation for the return of the Gorillaz.
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With the impending revival of the Gorillaz, the genre-bending animated band helmed by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, fan communities online have been rumbling with excitement. The Gorillaz are just one of Damon Albarn’s multitude of musical projects, part of a career spanning all the way from the early 1990s to today, and innumerable genres and styles to boot.

With the sheer amount of music under his belt, it can seem daunting for a first-time listener to explore Damon’s discography. Keeping that in mind, and injecting my own personal preferences into the mix, here is a ten album introduction to the work of Damon Albarn.

10. Rocket Juice and the Moon – Rocket Juice and the Moon


2012's self-titled debut album by the supergroup Rocket Juice & the Moon is not a prime example of Damon Albarn as an individual musician. For that reason this album is far from the top of the list, however, it also works to its credit. Damon, who is often at the helm of musical projects decided to, for this album, blend in with the rest of the group and just contribute to the music. His work with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tony Allen blends West African funk with artsy psychedelia, inviting guest musicians from Africa to sing and rap over the instrumental soundscapes created by the core band. "Rocket Juice & the Moon" is a fabulous mixture of sounds and ideas that allow Damon Albarn to work as a part of the soundscape rather than the conductor.



9. The Magic Whip – blur


As the eighth and latest studio album by blur, the first of Damon's many successful bands, "The Magic Whip" works both as a return to form and a culmination of experiences for the band. Released in 2015 it is among the most recent works released by a group including Damon, and from a sonic perspective, this is extremely apparent. There are tinges of the 1990s, the heyday of Brit-Pop and popular art rock, blended with the expertise and musical knowledge of a band that has been operating since 1988. Just like many of Damon's works "The Magic Whip" creates a melancholic world with bright tinges of warmth and hope scattered throughout.



8. Journey to the West – Monkey


"Journey to the West" is likely the most unique album mentioned in this list. It is a soundtrack, composed by Damon, for the 2008 opera "Monkey: Journey to the West" based on the classic Chinese tale. Damon's work on this soundtrack is an extension of the Gorillaz, collaborating with artist Jamie Hewlett to produce a visual and sonic wonderland drenched in Chinese culture. It builds itself upon old Chinese styles and musical ideas yet pierce each song with tinges of electronica and Damon's trademark experimental style.



7. Everyday Robots – Damon Albarn


"Everyday Robots," Damon's debut solo album, is a summary. While just as enjoyable and interesting as the rest of his vast body of work, this particular album brings elements from all of his past experiences and turns them into a more personal sonic journey through his life. Art pop and trip hop, among other experimental genres, seed "Everyday Robots" with the atmosphere that Damon Albarn has surrounded himself with over the course of his career.



6. The Good, the Bad, & the Queen – The Good, the Bad, & the Queen


Another supergroup, "The Good, the Bad, & the Queen" did it first. In 2007, before "Rocket Juice and the Moon" was conceptualized, Damon Albarn teamed with Paul Simonon, Simon Tong, and Tony Allen to create a quintessentially British album. Based on the hectic and melancholic theme of life in modern London this supergroup, helmed by Damon's accented vocals and playfully English demeanour, "The Good, the Bad, & the Queen" is an enjoyable, easy listen filled with thoughtful imagery.



5. Plastic Beach – Gorillaz


The band closest to blur in both recognition and success out of Damon's entire career is without a doubt the virtual band Gorillaz. Conceptualised after seeing the amount of pollution and refuse to litter the sands of a local shoreline, "Plastic Beach" centres itself on a fictional apocalyptic island built out of the washed away wastes of humanity. This premise could easily lead to preachiness that, while well intentioned, can often break an album's effectiveness in conveying its music and ideas. Much to the credit of Damon, the rest of the band, and each of the guests that contributed, the message is deftly laced over the course of the album. With an airy and electronic aesthetic to the production value this is a wonderful introduction to the work.



4. Parklife – blur


1994's "Parklife" is among the most successful and popular albums ever recorded from both blur's catalogue and Damon's overall discography. It was the spike to the top in regards to their prominence in the UK music scene and helped to usher in the Cool Britannia movement, built upon the genre of Britpop that "Parklife" exemplifies so well. It is a playful satire, poking fun at modern British life while also exemplifying it. "Parklife" is a cornerstone album, bridging the gap between pop, rock, and cultural significance.



3. Modern Life is Rubbish – blur


Though (unfortunately) nowhere near as popular as "Parklife" blur's second album, "Modern Life is Rubbish" was the precursor for many of the ideas and sounds explored by its more successful sibling. A spunky attitude, fuelled by Graham Coxon's fuzzy guitarwork, pervades this album, giving it a bite as it jabs its finger into the heart of modern life and it's bizarre, often draining, qualities.



2. Demon Days – Gorillaz


"Demon Days" is, in all honesty, my absolute favourite album of all time. In my personal opinion, there is no greater example of artistic passion, collaboration, and curious exploration. It is apocalyptic dark pop at its finest, strangest, and most topical. A well-structured anti-war message exists beneath the surface, protesting the Iraq war among other explosions of violence and broken humanity while still delivering a solid musical experience, creating the framework for "Plastic Beach" and the more environmental angle he would use later on. Damon's expressions of a world turned into a wasteland of war, scarred by the scramble for resources and greed of modern society, is inherently dark. There is no way around the dark heart of the album, and the thick, organic production (in contrast to the breezy electronics of "Plastic Beach") that slithers through every song, but that never gets in the way of this milestone achievement in genre-bending experimentation.



1. 13 - blur


Although "Demon Days" is my personal favourite out of Damon Albarn's entire body of work, the top spot has to go to the 1999 work of experimental electronic psychedelia, "13." Often referred to as Damon's breakup album after a long-term relationship with Elastica's frontwoman Justine Frischmann, this album is soaked in the thoughtful meanderings and saddened experimentation that he is known for. Yet, even as fuelled by sadness and self-reflection as it may be, it manages to produce songs filled with hope and a loving, artistic disposition. It is among Damon's most personal works, and acts as the precursor to the rest of his career, building a framework of musical curiosity that would fuel all his future works. Without "13" there would be no "Demon Days" to explore.

Cover Image Credit: fanart.tv

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'Baby, It's Cold Outside' Is NOT About Date Rape, It's A Fight Against Social Norms Of The 1940s

The popular Christmas song shouldn't be considered inappropriate.

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The classic Christmas song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" has recently come under attack. There has been controversy over the song being deemed as inappropriate since it has been suggested that it promotes date rape. Others believe that the song is another common example of our culture's promotion of rape. You may be wondering, where did they get that idea from?

The controversy has led to one radio station, WDOK, taking the song off the air and banning it from their station. Some people believe that this song goes against the #MeToo movement since it promotes rape. However, people are not considering the fact that this traditional Christmas song was made in the 1940s.

People are viewing the song from a modern-day cultural perspective rather than from the perspective of the 1940s. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was written in 1944. Many people have viewed the song from the perspective of our cultural and social norms. People believe that the song promotes date rape because of lyrics that suggest that the male singing is trying to stop the female singer from leaving, and the female singer is constantly singing about trying to escape with verses like "I really can't stay" or "I've got to go home."

When you first view the song from the perspective of today's culture, you may jump to the conclusion that the song is part of the date rape culture. And it's very easy to jump to this conclusion, especially when you are viewing only one line from the song. We're used to women being given more freedom. In our society, women can have jobs, marry and be independent. However, what everyone seems to forget is that women did not always have this freedom.

In 1944, one of the social norms was that women had curfews and were not allowed to be in the same house as a man at a later time. It was considered a scandal if a single woman so much as stayed at another man's house, let alone be in the same room together. It's mind-blowing, right? You can imagine that this song was probably considered very provocative for the time period.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is not a song that encourages date rape, but is actually challenging the social norms of society during the time period. When you listen to the song, you notice that at one part of the song, the female states, "At least I can say that I tried," which suggests that she really doesn't want to leave. In fact, most of the song, she is going back and forth the whole time about leaving stating, "I ought to say no…well maybe just a half a drink more," and other phrases.

She doesn't want to leave but doesn't really have a choice due to fear of causing a scandal, which would have consequences with how others will treat her. It was not like today's society where nobody cares how late someone stays at another man's house. Nowadays, we could care less if we heard that our single neighbor stayed over a single man's house after 7. We especially don't try to look through our curtain to check on our neighbor. Well, maybe some of us do. But back then, people did care about where women were and what they were doing.

The female singer also says in the lyrics, "The neighbors might think," and, "There's bound to be talk tomorrow," meaning she's scared of how others might perceive her for staying with him. She even says, "My sister will be suspicious," and, "My brother will be there at the door," again stating that she's worried that her family will find out and she will face repercussions for her actions. Yes, she is a grown woman, but that doesn't mean that she won't be treated negatively by others for going against the social norms of the time period.

Then why did the male singer keep pressuring her in the song? This is again because the song is more about challenging the social norms of the time period. Both the female and male singers in the song are trying to find excuses to stay and not leave.

On top of that, when you watch the video of the scene in which the song was originally viewed, you notice that the genders suddenly switch for another two characters, and now it's a female singer singing the male singer's part and vice versa. You also notice that the whole time, both characters are attracted to one another and trying to find a way to stay over longer.

Yes, I know you're thinking it doesn't matter about the genders. But, the song is again consensual for both couples. The woman, in the beginning, wants to stay but knows what will await if she doesn't leave. The male singer meanwhile is trying to convince her to forget about the rules for the time period and break them.

In addition, the complaint regarding the lyric "What's in this drink?" is misguided. What a lot of people don't understand is that back in 1944, this was a common saying. If you look at the lyrics of the song, you notice that the woman who is singing is trying to blame the alcoholic drink for causing her to want to stay longer instead of leaving early. It has nothing to do with her supposed fear that he may have tried to give her too much to drink in order to date rape her. Rather, she is trying to find something to blame for her wanting to commit a scandal.

As you can see, when you view the song from the cultural perspective of the 1940s, you realize that the song could be said to fight against the social norms of that decade. It is a song that challenges the social constrictions against women during the time period. You could even say that it's an example of women's rights, if you wanted to really start an argument.

Yes, I will admit that there were movies and songs made back in the time period that were part of the culture of date rape. However, this song is not the case. It has a historical context that cannot be viewed from today's perspective.

The #MeToo movement is an important movement that has led to so many changes in our society today. However, this is not the right song to use as an example of the date rape culture.

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Board Games Are More Important Than You Think They Are

They've become a defining part of my family.

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Remember when you were a kid and you'd have a family game night? Or your friends would come over and you'd open the game cabinet and play at least three different games together?

Maybe it's just me, but those are some of my best memories from my childhood. My family loves games, board games, and electronic games.

Of course, as I got older, gaming consoles like PlayStation and Wii became more and more popular. That meant that the game cabinet was opened less and less, collecting dust.

Thankfully, I live in New Jersey near the shore and Hurricane Sandy left my family with no power for five days. Sure, it was scary not having power and walking around my neighborhood seeing fallen trees or roof shingles, but we were inland enough to not have had any flood water damage.

No power also meant no PlayStation or Wii games. The gaming cabinet was opened again, this time with vigor. Now, four years later, and I still think about sitting in the dark with a flashlight playing Scrabble with my family.

That was also the week I learned how to play Yahtzee and dominated my dad in every game. My sister constantly was looking for someone to play her to Battleship. We exhausted Rummikub.

The game was already a family favorite, and that's including extended family. Family barbeques had been ending with late night games of Rummikub for at least a year by the time Sandy hit.

We were ready to strategize and crunch numbers, but after day three, we never wanted to a number ever again.

This semester, there's been a surge of board game love again in my family. My sister bought Jenga, which we are currently trying to exhaust ourselves with. My favorite board game also had a comeback: Life.

I loved this game so much that I had the SpongeBob version as a kid. I would play it with my best friend, just the two of us, playing game after game of Bikini Bottom themed Life. Now, I have a car full of "kids" that I've started to make pets in my head. I can handle having five pretend dogs, but not five pretend kids.

I don't know what it is about board games, but my family has always had an affinity for them. We've gone through our cycles of playing video games and card games, but we always come back to the classics. Maybe it's more a defining part of my family than I originally thought.

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