Damon Albarn: The Essential Career-Spanning Playlist


Things are coming full circle for Damon Albarn this week, as Blur’s Parklife celebrates its 20th anniversary and his first proper solo album, Everyday Robots, makes its way into the world. The sonically eclectic and emotionally wistful album, produced by Albarn and XL Records, makes reference to its creator’s lengthy past, present, and future: Britpop posterboy, puppeteer behind pop’s greatest cartoon band, supergroup collector, world music activist and curator, producer of forgotten legends, soundtrack creep, opera experimenter, rap hook dude, electronic remixer, guy standing in the background playing keyboard on a Gil-Scott Heron record, or really anything you need from him.

No musical task is too small for 46-year-old Albarn, and seemingly no corner of the musical world is, either. As Pitchfork pointed out in their astute review of Everyday Robots, Albarn is the guy that never seems far from a nap, but when you start examining all that he’s accomplished through the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, you’ll feel perhaps inadequate. Not only will you be surprised by all of the collaborations he’s quietly amassed since shuttering Blur and Gorillaz, you’ll need a guidebook to follow them. So we created a master playlist of his supergroups, one-off collaborations, production efforts, soundtrack projects, and of course, our a personal favorite mix of Blur and Gorillaz hits and album cuts alike. It’s 47 tracks long and includes every vocal feature Albarn’s made on someone else’s song, assuming said collaboration is on Spotify. Some are not, so there is an addendum on the next page that includes some highlights from the non-Spotify tracks.

A guide to the guide: Its pacing is purposeful, starting with the obvious (his new solo songs, then Blur and Gorillaz). Then it moves to his supergroups: 2007’s The Good, The Bad & The Queen, featuring The Clash’s Paul Simonon, The Verve’s Simon Ton, Afrobeat pioneer/Fela Kuti associate Tony Allen, and produced by Danger Mouse; then 2012’s Rocket Juice & the Moon, featuring Allen and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea. There’s another collab with Allen in there too, then onto his guest vocal duties: Massive Attack, Kano, The Rentals, Deltron 3030, Fatboy Slim, The Black Ghosts, and more. His production duties with Bobby Womack on the R&B legend’s 2012 comeback album, The Bravest Man Alive, come next. If you’re still with us, we start in on 2002 project to highlight the folk music of Mali (which is among his most quietly stirring work), then his 2011 Kinshasa One Two album with musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Finally, two of his scores, both a bit fantastical: one for the 2008 theatre production Journey to the West (under the name Monkey), and one for the 2000 film 101 Reykjavík, (more soundtracks/scores in the non-Spotify addendum on page two).

Non-Spotify Additions

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiTqV5dokJ8]

Albarn’s first foray into soundtrack work: the kooky “Closet Romantic,” for 1996’s Trainspotting.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDl4OhRN3bQ]

A collaboration with minimalist English composer Michael Nyman, for the score to 1999’s Ravenous.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EZ3CmQx3to]

A taste of the slight and stunning set of music Albarn wrote under the name Dr Dee in 2011 for an original opera, Dr Dee: An English Opera.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS4SMs1r6jo]

Albarn and Ray Davies covering “Waterloo Sunset” for a 2002 Kinks tribute album.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gfQdq7Cfic]

“Dying Isn’t Easy” from the soundtrack to the (admittedly bad) 2000 Kevin Spacey film, Ordinary Decent Criminal .