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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I Write Because

It's my escape, and I can go into this whole new world when I do.
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I have been seriously writing for about a year now, and today I questioned why I write? In this year, I have written hundreds of pages in my diary, I have written a rough draft of a book that has 263 pages in its first copy, and I have been writing weekly content for The Odyssey. This is in addition to the schoolwork I have had that has required me to write essays and whatever comes my way.

This still doesn’t answer the question, why do I write? What could be going on in my head that has led to me write so much in a relatively short amount of time? A lot of people probably don’t write the amount of I’ve written in a year of writing in their lifetimes.

It’s a lot, and I don’t blame them. Writing takes a lot of time and it’s a skill that can be hard to master. I know I am nowhere near mastery with writing, but I hope to get there one day. It’s something I’ve always loved, but in this past year or so it’s something I’ve grown to be passionate about.

Why? I write because I am someone that thinks a lot. There is always a thought going on in my brain, and sometimes these thoughts consume my daily activity. Writing is how these thoughts escape my brain.

If something bad happened, I need to write about it in my journal. I am the type of person that gets so fixated on either something huge or miniscule and it will distract me from whatever I am doing, and writing gets me out of that. Writing helps me escape my own demons in my brain.

When I write, I am brutally honest with myself and I do this, so I can reflect later on. One of my key values is growth, and to me writing allows me to grow because when I write, I reflect on what I did wrong and I can better myself for the future. I am not perfect, I make mistakes and writing allows me to see those mistakes, so I don’t make them again.

I document the good, the bad, the ugly, and I love it. The good days make me happy when I am sad, and the bad days keep me humble and teach me. I look at old entries from 3 months ago, and I see the growth I have made since then. It’s awesome.

When I write, I get into this vortex where it’s me and my keyboard. Nothing can stop me when I am writing, and it is my therapy.

Sometimes, I document days when I need to make a decision and the people that I get advice from, their words don’t click in my brain. I write every factor in the decision, others advice, and how I feel.

I suck at public speaking; my brain goes a million miles per hour and my mouth keeps up. When I am nervous, and I have to talk in big groups of people, I cannot make a cohesive sentence. It’s because of nerves, and it’s why I force myself to participate in class because public speaking is an important skill.

That’s another reason why I write all the time. When I write, it forces my brain to slow down. It gives me a layout of what I want to follow, and it’s why in class or meetings I am always taking notes. Taking notes keeps me on track.

Bringing this back to advice, sometimes I forget words, or I don’t quite know how to explain something. When I write it out, the words naturally come to my brain and I don’t struggle to find words because my brain has had time to process it.

Writing things down forces my brain to process things and to digest big issues, instead of just accepting it and moving a million miles per hour. Since I have been writing, I feel like I am more mature because I have taken the time to understand more things.

People ask me, why I write so much? This is why, I need time to digest what is going on, and to make sure I can grow from it. In life we are constantly growing as people, I want to document that for my future self and my future kids. Also, I want to make sure that I don’t repeat history and make the same mistake twice.

As for writing anything that is not about my day, why do I do it? I love it. I love typing on a computer and writing an article or an essay. When we got essays in high school, I would challenge myself and I would take a different perspective and learn what other people think.

I loved it because I dove myself into a computer and became an introvert while I wrote the essay. In college, I had a ten-page research paper and I loved it because I was able to talk about this topic and teach a different perspective to my professor.

It’s the same reason why I write for The Odyssey. I write because I am different, and I own it, and I want the people who read my articles to hopefully think differently. Another reason, I get to teach and share my knowledge through writing, and teaching that I want to do for the rest of my life. If writing enables me to do teach, I will write till the cows come home.

As for fiction, I am creative by default. Since there is always a thought in my brain, I begin to wonder what if, and I create these stories based on that what if. It’s how I wrote a novel at the age of 18.

My whole novel that I wrote started with a what if that I asked myself when I was little. Since then I have been creating this whole story to that what if and have developed it over time with my life experiences. It is the biggest reason to why I may never publish the book because it is so personal.

Also, creatively writing get these ideas out of my head and I can focus on my schoolwork. Sometimes creatively writing distracts my brain from feeling a certain way, and it’s a channel for me to get to this happy place. That is the biggest reason to why I always travel with something to write on because it’s a need for me.

Essentially, I write because I need to get out of my head and writing enables me to do that. For me, writing is my therapy and escape that’s why I write.

Cover Image Credit: @fuertes_clara

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50 Amazing Songs From Someone Who Actually Listens To Everything

What music do you like? "A little bit of everything."
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I cannot tell you the number of times someone has asked me what music I listen to without them actually getting a good answer.

To me, music is everything. It is that motivating kick to work on homework. It is that eloquent touch missing from a homemade dinner. It is the immersion of memory from a sound you heard years ago. It is the beat that makes you dance like you actually know how to dance. It is that connection you can share with someone while singing a song at the top of your lungs!

My music history started off with my mom. My mom would play Christian pop for me and my siblings while we cleaned the house. During airplane flights, I would listen to the jazz radio for hours on end. From there, I transitioned to the country music my dad would play through the speakers of his work truck. My sister turned me onto soft rock through the RCHP, Jack Johnson, and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Then I got my first iPod. Suddenly, I no longer had to rely on others to play music for me. I could listen to anything and everything I fancied at the moment. I would write down songs I heard at dances to download later from YouTube videos. I would wait in agony for the end of a movie to see the song list. I would carefully select my next fifteen songs to buy with my iTunes gift card, to the point of creating brackets to see which ones were the best.

Throughout high school, my brother introduced to me to rap music and dubstep. My friends would tell me their favorites, and I would listen to every song of their favorite artist in a week. Soon I would know more about that artist than they did. I jumped from Lil Wayne to Boyce Avenue to Taylor Swift, even touching One Direction because that’s what girls liked.

Every day was a chance for a new song. Every moment was a chance for a new beat and lyric to turn my entire viewpoint of music upside down.

When someone asks me what type of music do I listen to, then I have to say everything. I listen to everything! I can’t have a favorite picking between Beethoven and Drake. I can’t have a favorite between Flatland Calvary and Post Malone.

So here is my list of the most defining songs in my life. There are from every genre and each one holds different memories with them. Give them a listen. Everyone can be a banger or an anthem. Never stop listening to music. Never stop clicking shuffle. Enjoy.

Side Note: These are in no particular order. All of them are NOT SAFE FOR WORK. These are not my top 50 songs. These are just 50 good songs that I enjoy a lot.

1. “Doses & Mimosas” - Cherub

2. “Suga Suga” - Baby Bash, Frankie J

3. “Enchanted” - Taylor Swift

4. “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” - Cage the Elephant

5. “Dani California” - Red Hot Chili Peppers

6. “Elastic Heart” - Sia

7. “Gangsta’s Paradise” - Coolio, L.V.

8. “Mr. Jones” - Counting Crows

9. “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” - The Charlie Daniels Band

10. “All of Me” - John Legend

11. “Love Me” - Lil Wayne, Drake, Future

12. “Gangsta” - Kehlani

13. “Your Body Is a Wonderland” - John Mayer

14. “Banana Pancakes” - Jack Johnson

15. “Howlin’ For You” - The Black Keys

16. “Pray For Me” - The Weeknd, Kendrik Lamar

17. “Stay” - Rihanna, Mikky Ekko

18. “iSpy” - KYLE Lil Yachty

19. “Creep” – Radiohead

20. “God Bless The U.S.A.” – Lee Greenwood

21. “Freeze Frame Time” - Brandon Rhyder

22. “Simple Song #3” - David Lang, Sumi Jo

23. “Light of the Seven” - Ramin Djawadi

24. “Suite No. 1 G Major Prelude” - Johann Sebastian Bach

25. “Hallelujah” - Pentatonix

26. “Higher Ground” - TNGHT, Hudson Mohawke, Lunice

27. “Sabotage” - Beastie Boys

28. “T.N.T” - AC/DC

29. “Blockbuster Night Part 1” - Run the Jewels

30. “White Iverson” - Post Malone

31. “The Hills” - The Weeknd

32. “Shoot Me Down” - Lil Wayne, D. Smith

33. “Black Belts” - Pyramid Vritra, Pyramid Quince

34. “Thinkin Bout You” - Frank Ocean

35. “Sky Walker” - Miguel, Travis Scott

36. “Pray” - Sam Smith, Logic

37. “Yonkers” - Tyler, The Creator

38. “Flexicution” - Logic

39. “Hypnotize” - The Notorious B.I.G.

40. “Boondocks” - Little Big Town

41. “Hotel California" - Eagles

42. “Danger Zone” - Kenny Loggins

43. “Toes” - Zac Brown Band

44. “I think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” - Merle Haggard

45. “Song of the South” - Alabama

46. “A Country Boy Can Survive” - Hank Williams Jr.

47. “Chicks Dig It” – Christ Cagle

48. “She Likes the Beatles” - William Clark Green

49. “Long Hot Summer Day” - Turnpike Troubadours

50. “Summer III” – Vivaldi

“You know what music is? God's little reminder that there's something else besides us in this universe, a harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars.” August Rush

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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