Since the band’s debut in 2001, Gorillaz has erased the division in musical genres by infusing all different styles into their formulated tracks, extending from indie and electronica to reggae and alternative rock. Their latest project, HUMANZ , presents the band in a new era with an overwhelming variation in style and sound. The album continues the band’s legacy and vision – also incorporating other new artists to the mix – ultimately creating an equally stimulating audio and visual experience for all music fanatics, regardless of favored genre.
The first track on the LP, entitled “Ascension,” is ushered in by a mysteriously daunting 24 second introduction which repeats the phrase “now I know more, but retain less.” Featuring American rapper Vince Staples, the track begins with a booming siren overlapped by Staples’ vocals which almost instantly set the tone for the first quarter of the album. It is the perfect opener to the eclectic LP that is HUMANZ.
One of the following songs, “Saturnz Barz,” features Jamaican singer and songwriter Popcaan. The “Controlla” singer opens the single with the chorus at midtempo, practically commanding listeners to bop their heads to the beat. Gorillaz lead singer 2-D then joins the track with a memorable voice that is not often heard in their music, but always appreciated. The percussion-soaked song remains one of my personal favorites on the album.
“Andromeda” succeeds the first interlude of the LP. Featuring notable rapper and singer D.R.A.M., the track evokes a refined mood by offering harmonically-infused melodies while still giving listeners what they please: a clean steady beat. It feels far more ethereal and this theme strings together many of the upcoming songs on the album.
Pusha T and Mavis Staples make an appearance on the LP’s fourteenth track, entitled “Let Me Out.” As the song begins, you nearly forget you’re listening to an alternative rock band due mostly in part to its finely-calibrated hip-hop tempo. Gorillaz has pulled out all the stops with this track, combining soulful traditional artists with up-and-coming new age rappers, perfectly concocting a raw sound rarely heard today.
The next brilliant song features Colombian R&B singer Kali Uchis. Ranking seventeenth on the HUMANZ tracklist, “She’s My Collar” allows 2-D to make a reappearance – but this time wrapped in layers of dynamic funk-style beats. This is one of the first love songs on the album, emitting a heavily hypnotic vibe between 2-D’s lower register vocals and Uchis’ softer hums.
Next is “The Apprentice,” the track with the most features on the LP. In addition to the group’s own 2-D, the song adds Rag’n’Bone Man, Zebra Katz and RAY BLK. Together, the artists create a fluid yet epic track, placed perfectly at the latter end of the album.
The final song on HUMANZ, entitled “Circle of Friendz,” is only two minutes long, yet it is one of the most powerful tracks that Gorillaz feeds to their audience. Featuring Brandon Markell Holmes, the track rises with a harmonious chorus repeating a singular phrase for the entirety of the song: “Circle of, circle of, circle of, circle of friends.” The song feels drenched in emotion as you realize the album has come to a close. I almost shed a tear.
With HUMANZ, Gorillaz has perfectly baited and caught the attention of music lovers across all age groups and varied genres. The album is an introspective, endlessly-playable anthology of eclectic tracks which all effortlessly present a nuanced sound and harmonically-rich vocals.
*Gorillaz has been confirmed as a headliner of the III Points Music Festival taking place this October in Miami. For more info about the festival, visit www.iiipoints.com.
By Olympia Rodriguez