After going nearly seven years without releasing an album, the British foursome the Gorillaz have once again begun dropping new music at what feels like a breakneck pace. Last April, the group dropped “Humanz,” a 26-song project that marked a departure from their traditional sound.
Now, a year later, the virtual hip-hop band is set to release another album, “The Now Now,” on June 29. In an interview, lead vocalist Albarn said, “I thought I should make a record where I’m just singing for once. It’s pretty much just me singing, very sort of in the world of 2-D but kind of come out and he’s singing very expressively. I feel really good about it. I feel really really good about it.”
The 2-D Albarn mentions refers to the fictional character that he plays, who performs alongside the three other fictional characters that comprise the band: Murdock Niccals (bass guitarist), Noodle (guitarist, keyboardist and occasional singer) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussionist).
However, the band has recently undergone a change in personnel, a shift that has fans of the group anxious to see how it affects their sound. None of the visualizers — the group’s term for the videos they have premiered to accompany their newly released singles — have shown Murdock, the former bass guitarist. Instead, the videos have shown a mysterious green fellow who looks like Ace from the “Powerpuff Girls,” a change that will likely affect the sonics of the upcoming album.
Indeed, a number of changes augur a shift in direction for the new project. Compared to the band’s previous aesthetic, “Humanz” marked a dramatic shift in the type of album artwork the group used. When discussing their new project, however, Jamie Hewlett, the art designer and co-creater of the virtual band, said, “I’m inventing a new style for the next Gorillaz album, Damon [Albarn] started to send me demos for new songs quite early on and that’s exciting, to hear the new direction.”
As a result, the question remains of whether “Humanz” will be remembered as an eccentric, creative one-off or the first step in a new direction, a query that the group’s new album stands to answer.
The iconic Gorillaz’s sound is melancholic and timeless (i.e. “Feel Good Inc” and “Clint Eastwood”), whereas the “Humanz” Gorillaz seem to have almost challenged themselves to see what music they could create out of some of the most unorthodox sounds possible. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some archetypal Gorillaz songs on “Humanz” (a lot of them), but there were also some creatively indulgent tracks (I’m looking at you, “Ascension”and “Momentz”).
Songs Already Released
“Humility – feat. George Benson”
The new album’s first song, “Humility,” was released as a single along with a music video featuring Jack Black. This introduction to “The Now Now” has a beachy, calm vibe. The music video takes place in Venice, California, and shows 2-D rollerblading on the beach. The instruments fit the scenery well — specifically, the pop-esque percussion creates an organic sound when paired with the vibrant lead synthesizer.
In front of these instruments are the soothing, level-headed voice of Albarn (2-D). This song is currently the second-most streamed song by the Gorillaz on Spotify — even more played than “Clint Eastwood.” If the track is any indication of what the rest of the album will be like, than it is safe to say the Gorillaz are returning to their iconic demon days.
Here lies a head-bobbing jam. A unique rhythmic drum creates the beat for this one. There is a captivating synthesizer chord progression that is layered with a second trickling melodic synth. Over top of the instruments is the not-too-flashy vocals of 2-D with a simple, yet universally important message: “Everybody hold on to your inner vision.”
The unique rhythm, perfect harmony, upbeat instrumental and memorable lyrics have a slight taste of the “Humanz” album.
There is only one dance move you can use while listening to this one: the disco. To do it, point your index finger at the ground by the contralateral hip and then raise it to the sky on the ipsilateral side of the body — be sure to stay in rhythm.
Seriously though, this song has a disco vibe to it; however, it’s not too quirky. Well, maybe it’s quirky, but it works. All in all, the cut feels like a new style for the Gorillaz.
Released June 14 as a single, “Fire Flies” feels heartwarmingly eerie: This is iconic Gorillaz. Mysterious synthesizers layered with 2-D’s vocals offer an emotional piece that has the opportunity to climb the streaming rates like “Humility” did.
In a year, it will be interesting to see how the Gorillaz popular songs are listed on Spotify; this song and “Humility” may be in the top 10. Based on these four songs alone, it isn’t too crazy to predict that this album will be better received than “Humanz.”
“The Now Now” Track List
On the Gorillaz website, the band released their expected track list. So, below is the same track list paired with the YouTube visualizers of the four singles already released.
Also, I’ve linked the first-time-live performances of some of the other songs (Notice: These may not actually be the official songs, but this is a good look at what the album could look like).
10. One Percent
The Gorillaz average about 17 songs per album they’ve released so far, so it could be possible that they throw in some interlude songs to add depth to the album. On their Spotify page, they have a playlist called “The Now Now” that includes the four new songs they dropped as singles that will definitely be in the album (“Humility,” “Lake Zurich,” “Sorcererz,” “Fire Flies”).
There is also a new website for the album, thenownow.tv. It will be interesting to see if they continue to update this website as the release date draws closer.
Overall, expectations for the album are high. The Gorillaz are making a bang after seven years of vacancy by dropping two albums within a year. Hopefully they have been working on those awesome animated music videos as well.