Albarn’s debut solo album an understated beauty

Damon Albarn should get an award for being the busiest man in the music business. From fronting Blur, one of the biggest Britpop bands in the world, to collaborating with hip-hop artists and a cartoonist under the moniker of Gorillaz, he’s done pretty much everything a pop musician can do, yet his new album “Everyday Robots” is his first proper solo album.

The album is also Albarn’s quietest, produced sparingly with lots of space. Often times only a piano or a quietly picked acoustic guitar is accompanied by a simple drum machine. It gives the album a more personal touch than say a Gorillaz record would.

Often times it is reminiscent of Blur’s final album, “Think Tank,” where in the absence of Blur’s other genius Graham Coxon, Albarn made the album his own, with similar use of drum machines and sparse production.

Most of the songs follow a similar structure, with soft, downbeat rhythms and lyrics about the way technology has diminished face to face communication and distanced human relationships.

It seems like a cheesy and overdone theme, but it works to a surprising extent. Songs like “Hostiles” and “Lonely Press Play” have a certain loneliness to them, a combination of the dry production and Albarn’s slightly raspy vocal performance that is his best since 1999’s “13,” arguably Blur’s best album.

Album highlight “Photographs (You are Taking Now)” features an acoustic guitar and sparse drum loops and lyrics like “When the heavy clouds that hide the sun are gone the millions of us on the hill from the star to land’s end when photographs you’re taking now are taken now press send” seem to follow in the theme of the album, focusing on the way cameras are distancing us from experiencing the actual events that we take part in.

If there’s one flaw with the album, it is that it doesn’t deviate from this formula much, and some of the songs start blending together after repeated listens.

Even so, it is impressive that Albarn has managed, unlike many of his contemporaries –for example, Oasis—to remain relevant, evolve as an artist and craft a beautiful solo record.

-Day Gudmundsson