It seems only appropriate that a year as strange as 2020 would see the release of a new album from the off-beat British virtual band Gorillaz. Their seventh studio album, “Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez,” is another great addition to their innovative, fun, and weird discography.
Gorillaz has always been a difficult band to pin down to one genre. Their music can be described as a mixture of many genres like electronic, pop, hip hop, indie rock, dance and funk just to name a few.
“Song Machine” doesn’t disappoint in delivering that musical blend of different genres that Gorillaz have become known for. The album is packed with many diverse big name features such as Elton John, ScHoolboy Q, Beck and St. Vincent.
One of the best songs on “Strange Timez” is “Aries.” The track features an upbeat synth instrumental and amazing vocals from Gorillaz lead vocalist 2-D. The lyrics are melancholic, creating a nice juxtaposition between the sound of the song and the lyrics.
Another stand out track is “The Pink Phantom,” which features 2-D and Elton John singing along to John’s haunting piano melody. The track also features Grammy nominated rapper 6lack on vocals as well. Only Gorillaz would think to pair pop-rock icon John with a relatively new rapper like 6lack and be able to make it work so well.
Gorillaz’ albums have been known to feature many of the best lyrical rappers. For instance, MF Doom on their second album “Demon Days,” Mos Def on their third album “Plastic Beach” and Vince Staples on their fifth album “Humanz.”
“Strange Timez” carries on this tradition with the track “Pac-Man,” where West Coast rapper ScHoolboy Q delivers the best rapping on the album. The track “Momentary Bliss,” featuring British rapper Slowthai, is also another hip hop highlight on the album.
Instead of releasing “Strange Timez” like a typical album, it was instead released episodically.
Gorillaz, always looking for ways to innovate, created a different way to release this album. Instead of releasing “Strange Timez” like a typical album, it was instead released episodically. The first music video, or episode, for the track “Momentary Bliss,” was released on Jan. 30. The band would go on to release monthly music videos for the rest of the year until the Oct. 23 release of the full album.
As with all of the past Gorillaz albums, the music videos receive the same amount of attention to detail as the music. They are beautifully animated and feature and credit the animated band members 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel instead of the actual creator of the band Damon Albarn.
“Strange Timez,” like the previous Gorillaz albums, may not have a thematic throughline or sonic consistency throughout the songs, but that is part of what makes the album so good. Despite their experimental nature, Gorillaz never takes themselves too seriously and instead focuses on crafting fun and innovative songs. “Strange Timez” may not be the best Gorillaz album, but is a great album and absolutely worth listening to.