As promised several weeks ago, Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and some of their regular Gorillaz co-conspirators – Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Bobby Womack – delivered a new album on Christmas day.
The record, The Fall, was recorded on an iPad during the group's North American tour in October and early November, which explains the name somewhat. It's currently streaming at thefall.gorillaz.com, if you sign up to Gorillaz's mailing list. For now, it's also only available as a download to fan-club members. Befitting a record made on the road on a new-fangled computer, it has a low-key feel: an electro-led affair, with some tracks seeming more like expanded sketches. But as ever with Albarn, there are plenty of lovely sounds and interesting noises to be heard.
Festive fanfarefor loony tunes
Usually, December is a bit of a dead zone for new music, beyond a few festive-themed offerings, but perhaps the Gorillaz release has sparked a trend. Klaxons also marked Christmas Day with new music, giving away a five-track EP, "Landmarks of Lunacy", for free at klaxons.net. The record was made with the band's regular producer/ collaborator James Ford, of Simian Mobile Disco, during what the band describe as three "magical" and "nocturnal" weeks in 2008.
If you want Blood, you've got it live
The Christmas giveaway didn't end with Gorillaz and Klaxons. Last Saturday, Yeasayer also chimed in with a new release appearing at yeasayer.net/xmas. Following a productive year touring their well-received second album, Odd Blood, which came out near the beginning of 2010, the Brooklyn band decided to mark the occasion with a live album recorded at the Ancienne Belgique venue in Brussels in October. For the 13-track release, the band have decided to "do a Radiohead", allowing fans to name their own price for the download.
Divide conquers beautifully
Apart from the releases mentioned above, there's not a huge amount of new music to be found at the moment, so I decided to stick my head into the pile of music – both physical and digital releases – that I've been meaning to give more attention to in the last few months. One such example is the Belfast musician Pat Dam Smyth. His first full album, The Great Divide, went online at his Bandcamp page, ind.pn/f8ixx5 (and elsewhere), in October. He makes a sort of loose-limbed, country-rocking sound with moments of real beauty. A particular standout is the sad, piano-led "Willows Song", which calls to mind the instrumental grandeur of Illinois-era Sufjan Stevens.