Blur. Gorillaz. The Good The Bad & The Queen. Operas. Theater soundtracks. Damon Albarn doesn’t want for projects, and now, 23 years after Blur’s debut, here comes his first official solo album. To call Everyday Robots a slow burn would be to ignore that it never burns. It’s a meditative, nostalgic affair that moves at a snail’s pace yet ultimately leaves a lasting impression. Half the record is given to musing on the alienation of modern technology (the title track; “Lonely Press Play”). The rest confronts the past, most Bowie-esque on “You and Me,” regarding Albarn’s years of heroin abuse. Everyday Robots rarely rises above a whisper; luckily, Albarn is powerful whether bellowing through the barrage of Blur or softly on his own. Prime Cuts: “You and Me,” “The History of a Cheating Heart,” “The Selfish Giant” —D.L.
Hercules & Love Affair
The Feast of the Broken Heart
New York collective Hercules & Love Affair return with a third album of accessible dance pop and featured vocalists. Hercules mastermind Andrew Butler is once again joined by Park Pistel, this time adding the robust voices of John Grant, Krystle Warren, Rogue Mary and Gustaph. The John Grant tracks are easily the most successful. His deep voice—filled with sadness—contrasts beautifully the aggressively ‘90s dance beats, repeating the formula that brought the group much success with “Blind,” its collaboration with Antony Hegarty. Elsewhere the tunes are less Herculean, as the band often opts for a more anonymous disco sound. The overall effect leaves the album feeling disjointed and lopsided. Though there's much to appreciate here, it might be best for Hercules & Love Affair to stick to one vocalist per album from here on out. Prime Cuts: “Liberty,” “I Try to Talk to You,” “Do You Feel the Same” —Dominik Rothbard
Let’s get one thing straight about Lily Allen—this British phenom pulls no punches when weaving tales. Hers is a decade-long chronicle of heartbreak, joy, mischief, pain, trouble and fun. Yes, we love her for her charming vocal stylings and knack for a fabulous pop melody. But she is truly underrated as an MC, regularly chronicling pop culture and dissecting the sausage factory experience as a female artist. Straight up on the title track, she namechecks Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Lorde, Gaga and mocks Kanye. Throughout, she curses like a sailor, but somehow still comes off sweet as sugar. With Lily, you want to hang with her for the hooks but stay late for the lyrics. She’s that damn good. Prime Cuts: “As Long As I Got You,” “L8 CMMR,” “Air Balloon” —P.V.