In reality, the reason it's taken the band so long to make a followup to Plastic Beach is fairly simple. Creators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett have said that it takes a very long time to create an album and design the accompanying visuals, and by the time the process is complete, they're ready to do other things. The band's literal humans also had a falling out several years back, which had left the fate of the Gorillaz uncertain since Plastic Beach and its digital-only followup The Fall. For a while, it seemed unlikely that there would ever be a new chapter in the canon that would see the gang back together for another album at all. But now we're just days away from the release of Humanz, and, as both the real and imagined threads go, both the band's human and cartoon components have been through the ringer to get here.
Leslie Horn, The Demon Days That Gave Us 'Humanz'
True to her word, Pleasure is an album rippling with honesty—with feelings and anxieties laid bare. With Metals, she added "more chaos and movement and noise" to the buoyant indie pop she'd made before, and some tracks on Pleasure take this ethos and run with it. Others are starker, with a deliberately muddied musical clarity. The title track is poignant and contemplative, but resolutely unpretty too. Until two minutes in, Feist's voice has just the muted plucking of an electric guitar for company, until a warped riff ushers in other instrumental shades. "It's my pleasure / And your pleasure is my pleasure," she sings, "That's what we're here for! Pleasure!" It's an almost manic resolve towards happiness, though later on the album, she grapples further with her own disposition. "I had to climb down into today," she sings on "Baby Be Simple," "and give up the pain I held myself up by."
Alexandra Pollard, From iPod Ads to Indie Icon: The Many Lives of Feist
Brad Paisley Love and War
If you believe the only country superstar ever to record a pro-Obama song owes us an anti-Trump song, you're not getting it—not exactly. What you are getting is the antiwar title track, a John Fogerty collab that unites Iraq and Vietnam—and also, by extension, Syria and whatever else they got. And toward the back where the Christian gesture is usually tucked away you're also getting an anti-hate song that decries the evil done in God's name in both "the darkest prison" and "the largest church," because after all, "God is love." That'll do, doncha think? This is easily Paisley's strongest album since American Saturday Night—not a bum track, loaded with good jokes (including, after several failed attempts, one about the internet), hymns to marriage haters will hate because they don't have what conjugal love takes, and, word of honor, a fun Mick Jagger cameo. It begins with something called "Heaven South," which one kind of hater will dismiss as escapist piffle but I say is Paisley's way of telling another kind of hater to quit feeling sorry for themselves and be grateful for what they got. It ends by reprising the same song.
Robert Christgau, Expert Witness
Willie Nelson God's Problem Child
God's Problem Child is funny, wise, grizzled, touching, downcast, and then funny again. Nelson's wit is still sharp—he co-wrote seven of these songs with his longtime producer Buddy Cannon via text message, so the lines had to land—whether he's hitting Trump on "Delete and Fast Forward" ("Elections are over and nobody won") or poking fun at rumors of his demise on "Still Not Dead" ("Woke up still not dead again today / The internet said I had passed away"). It closes with a Gary Nicholson-penned tribute to Nelson's friend and fellow legend Merle Haggard, who died a year and two weeks ago today: "When it comes to country music, he's the world / And it wouldn't be all it is without Merle / But he won't ever be gone."
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers Sidelong
Shook is a home-schooled ex-fundamentalist North Carolinan single mother raised in hardscrabble Rochester, New York. She disarms with self-caricature, exaggerating her drawl, her vibrato, her desolation, her drinking I hope, her "devil's book" and "mother-heart tattoo." She sings as a woman, a man, a who-can-tell; she rhymes "broken" with "Yoakam" and "buck up" with "fuck up." On my favorite track she deliberately gets too blotto to even consider driving to her ex's place. If only it was followed rather than preceded by the one where she plans to dry out tomorrow.
Robert Christgau, Expert Witness
G Perico All Blue
Sylvan Esso What Now
Colin Stetson All This I Do For Glory
Young M.A. Herstory
Mary J Blige Strength of a Woman
Thurston Moore Rock N Roll Consciousness
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