Gorillaz (aka Blur frontman Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett) recently returned with their first track since their 2018 album, The Now Now. The world's best virtual band teamed up with UK superstars Slowthai and Slaves to release Momentary Bliss, a track that's as chaotic as anything in Gorillaz's discography.
As the band gears up to release music throughout 2020 as part of their Song Machine series, here are seven of Gorillaz's best deep cuts and album tracks, and what makes them so great.
Ascension (feat. Vince Staples)
US rapper Vince Staples might be one of the most consistent rappers in the game right now, and when he teams up with artists outside of hip-hop, he always finds a way to bring his A-game.
Ascension, from Gorillaz's 2017 album Humanz, talks about the apocalypse. The contrast between the upbeat instrumental and the lyrics is stark, and it takes a couple of listens to truly catch on to what Vince is speaking about. It's one of the highlights of Humanz, and proves that Gorillaz play well with anyone.
Magic City is by no means one of the most frenetic Gorillaz tracks, but it is one of their most poignant. The beauty of Magic City is that it can be anywhere - while it's likely Albarn wrote it about Miami, the lyrics are relatable enough that it could be anywhere.
Magic City sits in the sweet spot between psychedelica, funk and trip hop - all genres that Gorillaz have dabbled in before. It's a great representation of Gorillaz' sound, and is one of The Now Now's peak moments.
Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
While Gorillaz's discography isn't exactly known for being full of hope, Every Planet We Reach Is Dead, off their 2005 album Demon Days, is particularly melancholic. The vocals are at the forefront of the track throughout the beginning, before a cacophony of noise erupts.
It's a song that folds into itself, crumbling away before your very eyes (or ears). The song relents throughout, providing brief pauses before building back up again - and then fading away to leave you with nothing but your own thoughts.
The second song off their debut self-titled album, Gorillaz weren't pulling any punches. It kicks off with a guitar hammering out bluesy sounding chords, before the drums kick in - with the drums taking over somewhat. They're turned up to 11, with the guitars taking a back seat.
The song is constantly adding layers as it builds - before the guitars cut out. Just don't expect it to be a 5/4 time signature. The way the song builds is reflective of Albarn's biggest hit with his other band, Blur, with both 5/4 and Song 2 mimicking each other in certain aspects. However, 5/4 is much more complex - a sign of what was to come from Gorillaz's discography.
Hongkongaton comes from 2007 compilation album, D-Sides. It shares elements of a song from frontman Damon Albarn's other band, Blur, with this song using video game sound effects used throughout Jubilee, from Blur's 1994 album Parklife.
The track feels like a futuristic waltz, with the bassline and piano doing a lot of heavy lifting on the song. It isn't lyric-heavy, but like some of the best Gorillaz tracks, the instrumental is hauntingly beautiful.
Empire Ants (feat. Little Dragon)
Empire Ants is one of two collaborations between Gorillaz and Swedish band Little Dragon on their 2010 album Plastic Beach, and contains some of the best trip-hop that the group has ever put out. It's also one of the most futuristic songs in their discography.
Plastic Beach saw Albarn teaming up with a range of musicians, and while this might not be the most typical Gorillaz track, it is one of their most thought-provoking. Multiple melodies come together while Albarn sings about how change is the past to freedom. It's arguably THE highlight of Plastic Beach, among what is an album full of great collaborations.
Inspired by the '70s, Aspen Forest encapsulates the sounds that 2010 album The Fall is built upon. Glitchy synths build a sense of anticipation, and while it's not the most complicated song in Gorillaz' discography, it is one of their most distilled.
The track, like many others from The Fall, is largely instrumental, with Albarn incorporating elements of classical music, as well as using both technological and organic means of achieving the soundscape he wants. It ends far too quickly but is the perfect soundtrack to winding down at the end of the day.