Album reviews: Damon Albarn, Eels, Iggy Azalea, Miles Davis, Burt Bacharach, Eliza Gilkyson


Damon Albarn Everyday Robots (Parlophone)

For his next trick, Britain’s most protean popsmith turns his attention not to Chinese opera, cartoon rock band or Elizabethan polymath, but to... himself. Everyday Robots is Damon Albarn’s most personal and revealing album, in which he scans back through memories of his childhood and adolescence to offer an intriguing, if slightly sad, musical self-portrait.

The Lord Buckley quote which opens it – “they didn’t know where they was going, but they knew where they was wasn’t it” – reflects both Albarn’s restless musical imagination, and his youthful peregrination between Leytonstone and Essex. The journey swings between urban-cosmopolitan and rural-English, the divergent poles of a personality that enables him to stand alongside quintessentially English songwriters such as Ray Davies.

But rather than his cheery pop muse, the arrangements reveal the melancholy in his memories of swimming in a Leytonstone pond, travelling America on a tourbus or wandering through Notting Hill after the Carnival. Pastel melodies of simple piano figures are set to glitchy percussion loops, found sounds and poignant strings, with glimpses of wistful harmonium, flugelhorn or swirling synth, while Albarn revisits his childhood home to find the street he lived in now truncated by the M11 link road, or frets about the way that machines insert themselves between us: “We are everyday robots on our phones... looking like standing stones, out there on our own.”

The only moment of outright jollity arrives on “Mr Tembo”, a ukulele-driven song about  a baby elephant: fittingly, the gospel choir bringing uplift to its chorus is from the church at the end of his Leytonstone road. It’s a rare moment of extrovert cheer on an intimate, introspective album that takes tentative  steps to reveal the soul behind the star.


Download: Everyday Robots; Mr Tembo; Hollow Ponds; The History of a Cheating Heart

Eels The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett (E Works/P.I.A.S.)

“I may as well have been raised by wolves,” reckons Mark Everett of his dysfunctional upbringing, a defining trauma which dominates his life and art. Accordingly, The Cautionary Tales... is wracked with recrimination, remorse and self-doubt. It can be bleak – the electric piano of “Lockdown Hurricane” seems a sound soaked in self-pity – but the intimate beauty of the strings and woodwinds sweetens the pill. There’s a winsome pop charm to “Kindred Spirit”. But the past is relentlessly raked over, with glockenspiel and humming merging with Everett’s falsetto to make “Series of Misunderstandings” sound like a dark fairytale, where the desire to correct his upbringing is deemed impossible – a raw nerve whose artistic effects he can’t escape.


Download: Parallels; Kindred Spirit; Series  of Misunderstandings; Lockdown Hurricane

Iggy Azalea The New Classic (Virgin)

Though neither particularly new nor classic, Iggy Azalea’s debut album proper (following two self-released mixtapes) reveals enough smarts and skills to sustain the Aussie rapper’s momentum. She never wanders far from hip-hop’s familiar themes – reproaching “haters”, celebrating her success, rebutting gold-digging advances  – but does it with stylish swagger on “Lady Patra” and “New Bitch” (“You well done, and bitch, I’m rare”). Backing tracks range from the stalking electro groove of her bad-girls duet with Charli XCX, “Fancy”, to the psych-prog swirl of “Change Your Life”, but her double-time delivery is best employed on her breakthrough hit “Work”, an account of how she scrubbed floors down under to get the money to start anew alone in the States, “no money, no family, 16 in the middle of Miami”.


Download: Work; Lady Patra; Change Your Life

Miles Davis Miles at the Fillmore (Columbia)

Exactly contemporaneous with the release of Bitches Brew, Miles Davis’s June 1970 shows at New York’s Fillmore East captured him on the cusp of revolutionising jazz by accessing psychedelic rock’s dynamism and extremity, and by extension a huge, young white fanbase. It meant accessing rock’s sheer volume, which had proved problematic at shows recorded earlier that year. But the master producer Teo Macero was better prepared this time, and the recordings capture the exploratory excitement of the performances, especially the fervid, volatile keyboard work of Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett. Macero’s edits on the original double-album collaged four nights’ shows into  a single, 20-minute track apiece; but this 4CD set presents each night’s ebullient flow in full.


Download: Directions; It’s About That Time; Bitches Brew; Miles Runs the Voodoo Down

Various artists Let the Music Play: Black America Sings Bacharach & David (Ace)

This latest in Ace’s Black America Sings series – following sets of Dylan and Beatles covers – is the best, primarily because Bacharach & David’s elegant compositions played directly to the growing black middle-class’s aspirations  to sophistication in the 1960s. It’s an aim evident in the performers’ shiny suits and evening dresses, and in their immaculately restrained delivery: even Nina Simone, so expert at touching raw nerves, is smooth and seductive on “The Look of Love”. B&D’s most serene muse, Dionne Warwick, is represented by her early take on


Download: I Say a Little Prayer; The Look of Love; Always Something There to Remind Me; (They Long to Be) Close to You

Eliza Gilkyson The Nocturne Diaries (Red House)

The Nocturne Diaries features songs written in the night, thus tending towards the crepuscular and melancholy of mood and theme – concerns of mortality, anxieties of failure – albeit lit by occasional glimmers of hope. In “Midnight Oil”, Gilkyson wonders “what was lost in our spiral down from grace”, but holds out for better times; in “Eliza Jane”, a gloss on the traditional “Lil’ Liza Jane”, she castigates herself for being “so worried about everything”, its bluegrass hoedown  a reprimand to her pessimism. “Fast Freight”, written by her folkie father Terry Gilkyson, evokes a settled drifter’s yearning for the road through lap steel and aching harmonica. Produced by her son Cisco Ryder, it’s a family album of elegant songs, well-framed in folk-rock settings.


Download: Midnight Oil; Eliza Jane; The Ark

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?