Damon albarn

An album of not terribly happy ballads: Blur’s The Ballad of Darren reviewed

Bands that have hung around, or gone away and come back again, occupy an increasingly sizeable percentage of pop’s bandwidth. When it comes to making new music, many are happy not to rock the boat, scraping by on the goodwill accumulated from past endeavours. Others strive to present a moving target, enjoying a more evolved, even argumentative, relationship with the sounds of their glory days. Two new albums tackle this dilemma, with varying degrees of success. Together for the first time since 2015, Blur do a fine job of straddling past and present. Fresh from the emotive nostalgia-fest of two nights performing at Wembley Stadium earlier this month, they have

The sound of a hunch coming good

Joan Wasser is New York loud. Her resting register is CAPS LOCK, rising to flashing neon when roused to laughter or, occasionally, indignation. ‘I was born a very expressive person,’ says the singer. ‘I was always talking to people in the street that I didn’t know. I’m not super afraid of expressing how I feel, and I take chances very quickly.’ Bold spontaneity has served her well. The Solution is Restless, Wasser’s latest album as her artistic alter ego, Joan As Policewoman, is the sound of a hunch coming good. The record stems from a single day spent extemporising with her friend David Okumu and the late and legendary Afrobeat

Cast a spell, clear and sharp as frost: The Unthanks reviewed

As August unwound, the EIF settled into the cavernous gazebo that is Edinburgh Park, and things began to loosen up. First there was an outbreak of vigorous clog dancing — more on which later. This escalated within 48 hours to a polite mini stampede from our designated seats towards the front of the stage at the start of Damon Albarn’s show, instigated at the artist’s request. ‘I’ve checked and we’re allowed,’ said Albarn sensibly. In 2021 we must take rebellion as we find it. When he lit a cigarette near the end it felt like civilisation was teetering on the very brink. As it transpired, this wasn’t really music designed

What a genuine delight to be among people: Gorillaz, at the O2, reviewed

The new music economy relies on cross-promotion and artists reaching out to different scenes. And the rise of streaming means everyone can hop between audiences with ease, hence those singles apparently by one person but with a cricket team’s worth of other names credited. As the Beach Boys once sang, ‘you need a mess of help to stand alone’. Alongside the featured artist sausage factory there are musical patrons. Take Damon Albarn, who has spent much of the past 20 years elevating the work of other artists, using the strength of his own name — made, of course, as the frontman of Blur — to promote music that might otherwise