Carter’s Record Reviews: New Gorillaz record satisfies with unforeseen collaborations, excellent songs

Pictured is the cover art for the album, 'Song Machine', by virtual band Gorillaz. The album has garnered critical acclaim for the variety of collaborations and genres featured.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Pictured is the cover art for the album, ‘Song Machine’, by virtual band Gorillaz. The album has garnered critical acclaim for the variety of collaborations and genres featured.

Song Machine, Season 1: Strange Timez, released Oct. 23, is the seventh album from the virtual band Gorillaz. Beginning as a series of singles released by collaborations with other artists throughout the past year, the end result became a full-fledged studio album.

Notable contributors to the album include Elton John, Robert Smith, Beck, Schoolboy Q and JPEGMafia. Keeping along with the experimental nature of Gorillaz, the album includes genres such as hip hop, alternative pop and rock, as well as R&B. “Crucially, the guest appearances never feel like the musical equivalent of those sitcom cameos where the audience immediately applauds because they recognize the star: you get the feeling the various artists are there for what they can bring to the song, rather than who they are, which means they meld into a fluent whole,” the Guardian said in a review of the album.

The record may not have a complete stylistic theme that links the tracks together, however the variety of collaborators throughout the creation of this record distinguishes it. One major example of this comes on the sixth track of the record, ‘The Pink Phantom’, as singer Elton John and rapper 6LACK, artists from different musical backgrounds, both contribute to a unique single. The memorable piano playing and vocals from John along with 6LACK’s R&B-inspired vocals make for an interesting contrast alongside Gorillaz vocalist 2-D’s signature clean vocals.

I give this album an 8.5 out of 10, and recommend it to anyone seeking to expand their musical horizons.”

— Carter Jones

Some of the best tracks on Song Machine are ‘The Valley of the Pagans’, ‘the Lost Chord’ and ‘Momentary Bliss’. ‘The Valley of the Pagans’ features artist Beck, with a rhythmic bassline introducing the song. Additionally, the disco-style synthesizer is an interesting element of the song that draws the listener in. Moreover, the intertwining vocals of 2-D and Beck are sonically pleasing, with increased vocal saturation toward the ending. On ‘the Lost Chord’, the clean guitar, alongside the sampled effects and orchestral instruments toward the end of the track, make for a soothing and well-balanced piece.

‘Momentary Bliss’ features areas of rap-style vocals with heavily-chorused guitars at the intro and outro of the song. The ska-influenced riffs later on, along with the fast pace that is achieved as the song progresses, creates a complex song all around.
Song Machine only has a few weak points, such as ‘Friday 13th’ and ‘Simplicity’ being underwhelming tracks. ‘Friday 13th’ achieves a quality that deviates from Gorillaz sound, regardless of how diverse Song Machine is as a whole. The other track, ‘Simplicity’, is uninteresting and seems slightly undefined sonically. Although there are weaknesses in Song Machine such as those listed previously, they do not reflect the overall quality found throughout the course of the album.

Overall, Song Machine definitely delivers on its experimental and almost spontaneous nature of the collaborations featured on the record. These factors distinguish it from other records, making for a refreshing and enthralling experience that demands to be given a listen. For these reasons, I give this album an 8.5 out of 10, and recommend it to anyone seeking to expand their musical horizons.