Fall In Love With New Music From Gorillaz And Sufjan Stevens

I’ve found over the past few years the only “new” music I listen to are new releases from bands or artists I have listened to for years. This week highlights that perfectly.

I remember the first time I heard Gorillaz. It was the early 2000s— I was watching MTV in the morning before going to my middle school classes, and the video for “Clint Eastwood” came on the screen. The music was so different. It was hip-hop, but it wasn’t. Were the cartoon characters the band? Or was this just a music video? I wish I had more reliable access to the Internet at that time, but I don’t think Wikipedia was around. I had to buy the album — but wait — there was a parental advisory sticker on it! It took me until “Demon Days” and iPods were released to start listening to Gorillaz, and I’ve continued ever since.

And Sufjan Stevens: I believe it was my step-sister’s boyfriend at the time — Andrew — who referenced Sufjan Stevens and his 50 States Project to me. He showed me a Rolling Stone article. (I feel old. In my first paragraphs I’ve referenced music videos on MTV, parental advisory stickers, and now print magazines. The world used to be a lot more complicated.)

I downloaded “Illinois” (sorry, Sufjan, I’ve since bought it a few times over) and fell in love with the orchestrations and the odd time-signatures. Since then, his music has continually evolved, and he has remained an absolute musical hero of mine.

Gorillaz, “Humanz”

On the latest Gorillaz release, “Humanz,” Damon Albarn and collaborators wrestle over 80s-fueled modern pop suites. Whether or not Albarn is featured prominently enough on the record will surely be debated, and the argument will not be without merit: the album’s heavy reliance on collaborators is challenging upon first listen, as their many styles and backgrounds are difficult to initially connect.

Strobelight” is an instant classic; I don’t know who Peven Everett is, but he’s going full-Stevie Wonder and it’s great. This song totally has everything.

Danny Brown‘s verse on “Submission” is a definite highlight; his cartoonish style fits in perfectly — imagine that.

I get the interludes, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. No one like a 26-track record.

Sex Murder Party” and “Hallelujah Money” are minor, dark and rad with the most “traditional Gorillaz” sound, in my opinion.

Overall, I really dig this record. After a handful of listens, the songs have grown on me. And as the songs become more familiar, the album begins to feel more like a Gorillaz record than just a collection of singles and collaborations.

Sufjan Stevens, “Carrie & Lowell Live”

I’ve seen Sufjan Stevens live in many iterations, dating back to the Illinois tour in either 2005 and 2006. So when Sufjan released “Carrie & Lowell” and backed it up with a tour in 2015, I couldn’t miss it. While the album “Carrie & Lowell” is a wonderful collection of acoustic gems, the live show opened the songs up with the brilliance I’ve come to expect from Sufjan. The songs were bigger than life and highlighted by Super-8-style home videos and magnificent lighting. “Carrie & Lowell Live” captures the tour as best an audio-only package can.

Redford (For Yia-Yia and Pappou)” serves as a great crescendo of introduction and opening into Carrie & Lowell’s title track, “Death With Dignity” — from the beginning you can hear Sufjan’s experimentation with electronic instruments on acoustic-based songs.

As always, Sufjan’s band is fantastic — the instrumentation and harmonies are fantastic, as always. Listen to the newly-arranged “John My Beloved” — the song takes on a new life. “Fourth of July” is another standout — the “We’re all going to die” sing-a-long synth-ending is just fantastic.

While the album ends with a collaboration with Gallant on Drake’sHotline Bling” — playful and fun. The ending highlight, however is “Blue Buckets of Gold” and it’s outro. Imagine a sea of flashing lights syncopated to the frantic electronic ending. It’s magical and caps a brilliant performance like few other endings I’ve seen.

Until the full collection is released on video, check out a clip: