All posts by Holly Callaghan

About Holly Callaghan

Bright and inquisitive, Holly loves unique, visually expressive music which bends genre classifications. She is excited to contribute honest, thoughtful pieces on the art and influence of musicians around the world.

[Album Review] Gorillaz – The Now Now

Who’s ready for a road trip? The new Gorillaz album The Now Now is the perfect soundtrack for travel. One can tell from titles such as “Magic City”, “Lake Zurich”, and “Hollywood” that there is a dedicated focus on adventure for this established British band. Many lyrics speak about being in dazzling or beautiful places, seeing interesting things and experiencing a journey, while emphasizing the feeling of discovery. Listening to this album, you’ll get the feeling that most of the songs must have been written while on the road with lyrics in “Idaho” have deep imagery of beautiful scenery pass by via tour bus window. The strongest positive of the album is that makes for a great summer exploration soundtrack for the car (or whatever transportation you use) and has the perfect flow for any summer excursion.

A huge change from their last album, The Now Now shows a softer, slower side of the band, without any of the hard-hitting rap or driving beats, previously found on Humanz. This isn’t a new direction as it is very similar to a large swath of their early art.  Spacey sounds transport you away from this reality and into one of Gorillaz own making. They have always had the goal of being different than anyone else. This album is true to form when looking at the whole history, but falls a little flat as the grooving flow throughout overshadows the individuality that each track deserved.

Another key difference is the significant decrease in guest stars, citing only Snoop DoggGeorge Benson, and Jamie Principle in the entirety.  This lack of outside influence decreases the diversity of sound and intense individuality that was found in the band’s previous music. Gorillaz have always pushed collaboration strongly in any of their music, making it part of their foundation. There is only one permanent member, Damon Albarn, with the rest of the band consisting of a continual rotation of different artists. Having so few included collaborators may have been what made it so much slower going, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, if you’re prepared for it. The Now Now is nothing like Humanz, but it’s good when you want to relax and enjoy the ride.

From beginning to end the groove continues with interesting sounds from a variety of sources, both digital and physical. (Yes, there is even a cowbell on “Lake Zurich.”) The feel is of a whirlwind tour across the country with a laid back attitude. Some parts get a little too slow and light, but this feeling is fleeting as they make at least something interesting in each song and finish strong. There are definitely a few great tracks on this album that deserve a listen.

“Fire Flies” stands out for it’s intriguing lyrics and complex instrumentation, including strings and a tuba bass line. Definitely the gem of the entire album with a truly unique sound that’s so completely Gorillaz. I find myself forgetting what I’m doing when this song comes on. It pulls me in and envelops my senses. No wonder they made it the pre-album release single just two weeks before the drop date, June 29th. This surreal feel really does draw you in and transport you away. It’s like poetry in motion. One of my favorite songs they’ve ever released.

“Souk Eye” is the final song with Spanish guitar, horns, and a full accompaniment of instruments. The forlorn sounds of the vocals blend perfectly, adding some of the complexity lacking in other parts of the album. This is another song that really pulls me into a tragic love. It’s romantic and fun to listen to with the melancholy overtones Gorillaz is known for with a bright twist. The contradictory feeling of this song works wonders as the final song fades out with only keys.

Depending on why you’re a fan of Gorillaz, the enjoyment level from this album may be drastically influenced. Lacking in depth and muted in tone more so than many previous releases, this could feel hollow in comparison to Humanz. It lacks the typical complexity, making it feel like a let down to those expecting a more individuality and collaborators. Despite this, the fact remains that some great work is included on this record. The Now Now shines as driving music because these smooth jams are perfect for being on the road. It deserves an honest, open minded listen when you’re the mood for it’s slower tempo. Its sounds envelop the senses like rose colored glasses, changing perceptions. The more I listen, the more pleased I am with how it feels.

[Album Review] Track By Track: Isaac Delusion – Rust and Gold

Isaac Delusion Rust and Gold is the perfect album for anyone that likes a wide range of genres. Categorization of their music is impossible because each song masterfully uses different musical styles and techniques from throughout the music world. Despite this intense eclecticism, the album is extremely well done and flows easily. Each song was given the most minute attention to detail and deep care which you can hear clearly as the listener. Melodic sounds transport you into their world as each song tells another unique story completely different from the rest. Rarely is an album so visually stunning, showing us clear characters, locations, and interactions that differ dramatically and show an intense individual artistry as the beauty of the music shines, taking the listener for one unexpected ride after another. Isaac Delusion is from France but primarily sing in English. Rust and Gold (2017) is the first thing I found from them in the US, but they did release a self titled debut album in 2014 on a different label.

Track By Track Impressions:

“Isabella” is a girl trying to be herself out in the world, protecting her heart from the pain she’s felt before, unawares of this man who is desperately yearning to be a part of her life. He shows his respect, admiration, and worry for her. His longing for her is almost overpowering. The lighthearted electronica background with the and unique voice of the lead Loïc, leads you to feel hopeful at the end.

“Black Widow” Beating drums, keyboard, and badass bass lines, blast through the song with brass horns to help create a rich feel. This is about a woman who can get what she wants from any man, no matter what. You can see the desire as it drips from his voice even as a warning flows out because all men fall before her, never to escape.

“The Sinner” Slowing down into a funky, moody jam with hints of gospel mixed in and explosive vocal power leaving you covered in goosebumps. Exploring the dark side of ourselves, hidden in the night; shining light on the duality between these parts of ourselves, putting a spotlight on that darkness in the most beautiful way. Lamenting and savoring the darkness, yet welcoming to return to the light in the morning as the battle between sinner and savior rages in ourselves with each passing day.

“Voyager” Starting out with pan flutes as the base for a reggae beat, it’s all about a trippy space adventure. Separating from reality exploring the unknown. You get an alien sensation as you get the feeling of being transported far above atmosphere. Your body starts to feel light as he says “gravity is gone” and the flutes lift you up higher. You can really escape to this groovy beat.

“Cajun” Guitar riffs hit you first thing. Then higher pitched singing in French comes through with undeniable feeling and intense effect, even being ignorant of the meaning of the words themselves. Great variation in fast and slow, intense and quiet, French vocalizing as a constant push and pull of delicate and hard.

“Luck & Mercy” Blues guitar, bass, and vocals transport you to a dark speakeasy where your destiny is determined by a roll of the dice. Electronic melodic sounds make your hair raise on end as the “dice of life” rolls to determine your fate. The intensity portrayed makes every hair stand on end with electricity, waiting to discover what your fate will be.

“Distance” Starts with strong house beats, easy on the ears, as Loïc’s voice carries you far away. Lightness drifts throughout leaving the listener feeling as if they’re being enveloped by tendrils of sound pulling you like a leaf in the breeze. This track revolves around the story of an adventurer searching for the unknown, introspection and determination to move forward.

“Bittersweet Fruit” Harps start as vaporous vocals blend together with the sound to transport you to the scene of a man smitten with a woman. She gives him a chance. He takes it. The endless summer starts, pristine and glowing, until what is perfect starts to to degrade; the golden glow starts to fade as it all tapers towards the end, almost as if it were a dream all along.

“How Much (You Want Her)” Headed toward the pure funk of disco you can’t help but start to move your body. His words are hard to make out as you feel like the alcohol went to your head as you overwhelmed with the sensation of desire on the dance floor. Unable to discern if “this is love or hell”, your faded mind tries to make sense of its feelings. Your body moves the whole time despite yourself until the last notes drift off.

“Take the Crown” Keys echo with the words “pain or pleasure” as funky bass comes in with the vocals and enough blues to match perfectly. A long instrumental in the middle breaks up the groove in a pleasant way before throwing you back into the funk.

“At Few Steps” A dreamscape shows a precipice of pleasure after a long journey. Almost sci-fi in feel with electronica sounds throughout. Rushing to what he believes is paradise, he is constantly chasing this thought of almost being there, wherever that is. Sensations of chasing a mirage in order to keep moving forward.

“Mother Shelter” crickets, frogs, keys, and a drastic slow down bring this album to a close. Having nearly a lullaby feel, they sing about sleeping safely. Finally coming home after a long journey and having a night of pure peace before the next adventure takes you over the horizon the next day. A relaxing and refreshing way to end the incredible journey of the album itself.

If you want a unique experience that’s totally worthwhile, give yourself some alone time and take the ride. The variety in sound creates a lot of replayability. I find myself hearing new aspects to the songs and meaning with each listen. Bands such as Isaac Delusion who have a broad sound have a difficult time finding labels to release their music, despite the level of talent. This independence should be celebrated and I feel albums like this one are gifts. They take you away from the daily monotony and give you a taste of real artistry and storytelling. I am grateful to have been introduced to Rust and Gold. One of my favorite albums of all time and it’s going to stay there.