aight im gonna start off with a note, just because in my own personal journey through this discography ive been stopping for music videos along the way, and this record is tied to the music videos in a way that’s kind of inseparable from the concept of the record: a full nine of the songs here were treated and singles and released with music videos, with clipped character interviews between them (“machine bitez”), and this record came out between episode 7 and 8 (hence the “season one” name). notably, and something ill mention in both the song by song and the summary, is that the episode order does not match the album order, which creates some different contexts for different tracks. with that being said, let’s dig into the 2020 album, Song Machine, Volume One: Strange Timez

i go back and forth on Strange Timez, which was Episode 6 and features Robert Smith of The Cure. i really don’t dig the first half of the song, but in the second half when the full instrumentation kicks in i enjoy it a bit more. i liked this a lot more with the music video, haha. The Valley of the Pagans features Beck and is one of my faves on the record for sure. a real fun humor on this track and musically it’s a jam. this will be Episode 8 of the music videos, which i have not seen yet. i’m excited to! The Lost Chord (featuring Leee John) is a neat drop back in to some synthier grooves. neat track, and it’ll end up being the final track to be featured with a music video. Pac-Man, which had been Episode 5 and features ScHoolboy Q, has grown on me quite a bit since watching the video. love the beat on this track. God the beginning of Chalk Tablet Towers reminds me of a synth-y 80s pop song every time. like it whiplashes me into a mall every time. St. Vincent is a real subtle feature here, its a nice track! The Pink Phantom is an extremely interesting track. the last of the singles to drop before the record release, this was Episode 7 and features 6lack and Elton John, who both get their own “halves” of the track (the bit of layering that happens in the last minute is probably the best bit tho). the performances are good on this one, its a neat track, and i enjoy it. not a dislike, but not a fave either. Aries, featuring Peter Hook and Georgia, has a slow start in the studio recording but once it gets going has a sublime vibe to it. this was Episode 3 with the music videos, and it was kinda perfect as a driving song, it just exudes that energy. Octavian, which had been Episode 5 and features Octavian is just oookay. Dead Butterflies features Kano and Roxani Arias, and this is an aight track too. i like it here before shifting into the kinda closing movement of the record for sure. i actually really dig Désolé and Momentary Bliss’s kind of inverse presence on the record, where they were episodes 2 and 1 respectively but close out the record in reverse order, haha. Désolé is still an incredibly good time – mournful and energetic in equal measures, guest Fatoumata Diawara’s voice is incredible and 2-D’s vocals and the bass on this track provide a really solid backbone that anchors the ebb and flow of the rest of the instrumentation. i think Momentary Bliss (feat. slowthai and Slaves) vies for top spot with Valley of the Pagans for me, and its grown on me a lot since seeing it as Episode 1 of the season. the ebb and flow of the record has a very fun play here – the song starts off p quiet and reminds me a lot of like, Mac DeMarco, then slowthai comes in and partway through his verse the synths drop off and the punky vibes come in, and the chorus gets raucous before drifting back down and starting over. its a cool loop, and damn i really enjoy it. a really fun high energy end to the record, i love closing out with lines like “we could do so much better than this / swimming in pools of momentary bliss” and “it makes me sick / to think you ain’t happy in your skin”.

faves –  The Valley of the Pagans, Pac-Man, Aries,  Désolé, Momentary Bliss
dislikes –

i mentioned in the Momentary Bliss bit that i kept bringing up an ebb and flow on this record, and i think its not like, super unique but its something that’s p clear when you’re looking for it – on both a granular level and a song-by-song level, there’s a lot of shifting in the vibes and instrumentation on this record. even a track like Pac-Man shifts between the beat heavy portion with 2-D’s singing over it to the dreamlike accompaniment that ScHoolboy Q raps over, and i noticed a bunch of tracks have fairly big shifts, and sometimes repeat the shift over their runtime. and its cool to see that kind of attention to sequencing – almost every energetic or upbeat track is followed by something mellower – its nice.

but yeah, this is easily the best Gorillaz have sounded since Plastic Beach. the features are complementary, there’s a nice variety in genre influence, the performances are really great, and god so much of this record is catchy and fun or has a great sense of humor. def a good time. i think i mightve liked a little more conceptual structure to bring everything together but honestly it was nice to see such a large presence of the visuals in the album holistically, and i’ll definitely be excited for more Song Machine if it comes in at this caliber.

Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez – 8/10

and with that we’ve caught up to the present day, and that ends our run of Gorillaz albums. thanks for reading along! i’m working on a way to adapt my current system for picking the next discography over to the site, but for now i’ve got the next artist on the docket: Green Day!

the first: Gorillaz | previous: The Now Now | next: (EDIT: Cracker Island)

all my reviews for Gorillaz