Song of the Week: Gorillaz Dazzle on the Hypnotic “Silent Running” with Adeleye Omotayo

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Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Gorillaz ponders an infinity of darkness on “Silent Running.”

Damon Albarn begins “Silent Running” with a simple plea: “Stop, ’cause you’re killing me.” Simple enough, right? There’s an air of exhaustion that swims through Gorillaz‘s latest single off their forthcoming album, Cracker Island (out February 24th), which also features vocals from regular touring partner Adeleye Omotayo. Throughout “Silent Running,” Albarn sings of being trapped in a labyrinth, of being fragile and “machine-assisted,” of running and running into infinity.

And yet, the track is effortlessly groovy, entrancing, and hypnotic. That sense of exhaustion doesn’t just live in Albarn’s lyrics, which are inspired by the 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running that revolves around reforestation, sunlight, and avoiding the complete extinction of biological life. When Omotayo makes his entrance, his and Albarn’s voices swirl around each other atop trance-like synths, creating an overwhelming, emotionally loaded feel.

It’s fitting that “Silent Running” features production from pop mastermind Greg Kurstin, who can take any demo and make it sound infinitely slick and polished. The crisp drum sounds and funk-inflected guitar work is at the core of Kurstin’s strengths, and it works to counteract the confusion baked into Albarn and Omotayo’s crooning. There’s an existential dread that guides the song, a desperate need to be saved from the unending monotony of the infinite silent run — something many of us can relate to in this day and age.

But “Silent Running” also points to an exciting stylistic theme appearing on Cracker Island: Though there’s a sense of terror and uncertainty in the fantastical world that Albarn and co. are laying out, there’s also freedom and lightness. Each song depicts mythical circumstances that, funnily enough, seem to mirror aspects of the real world — and beneath it all is a psychedelic explosion of sound and groove that becomes more irresistible with every listen. It’s almost as if they’re setting up a Blade Runner-esque dystopia and a sonic Garden of Eden side-by-side, and “Silent Running” encapsulates that juxtaposition perfectly.

With still a few more weeks until Gorillaz’s Cracker Island is out in the world, it’s safe to say that the running isn’t going to end very soon — but Gorillaz are implying that there’s glory and safety waiting for us at the finish line.

— Paolo Ragusa
Editorial Coordinator

Honorable Mentions

Daisy Jones & The Six – “Regret Me”

Alongside the teaser for Amazon’s upcoming limited series adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s bestselling novel, “fictional” band Daisy Jones & The Six have shared “Regret Me,” the first single from their accompanying album Aurora. There are tons of layers to the Daisy Jones story and the single they’ve shared — not only is “Regret Me” a significant single in the fictional history of the band, it’s a well-worked statement piece from the real life musicians who crafted the sound of Daisy Jones & The Six.

Helmed by Blake Mills, who has worked with Phoebe Bridgers, Marcus Mumford, and Perfume Genius (among other indie greats), “Regret Me” features riveting rock, impressive musicianship, an intriguing structure, and biting lyrics, expertly sung by leads Riley Keough and Sam Claflin. It’s rare that a fictional band can match the legacy depicted in their story, but luckily, “Regret Me” is a best case scenario to kick off the music behind Daisy Jones & The Six. — P.R.

¿Téo? – “A Mi Cama”

Colombian-American vocalist Mateo Arias, better know as ¿Téo?, has released “A Mi Cama,” a smooth, bouncy new track. Straddling the balance between hip-hop and reggaeton is one of the artist’s strong suits, and “A Mi Cama” doesn’t disappoint as an alluring, pulsing offering that would feel right at home in a dimly-lit club. It makes you want to dance, but it more specifically makes you want to dance with that one person you can’t get out of your head. It’s the perfect introduction for anyone new to his music, particularly ahead of a tour and appearance at Coachella. — Mary Siroky

Stephen Sanchez – “Evangeline” 

Prepare to be transported to a different time and place with Stephen Sanchez’s “Evangeline.” Drenched in the sounds and aesthetics of the 1960s, the dreamy love song arrives following an appearance from the Nashville-based singer-songwriter on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Between the nostalgic background vocals, Sanchez’s own raspy delivery on the chorus, and his well-placed falsetto, “Evangeline” feels like dusting off a beloved record and giving it a spin. — M. Siroky

XG – “Shooting Star”

2022 was a huge year for girl groups in K-pop, and XG (a Japanese girl group based in South Korea) are making a strong case for carrying that energy into 2023, too. “Shooting Star” is a sparkling new release from the seven-member act — what starts out with some heavy-hitting rap completely shifts when the first pre-chorus hits, melting before crescendoing into a technicolor dream. “Oh, you rockin’ with the dream team?” they ask in the bridge. Yes, XG, we absolutely are. — M. Siroky

Quinn XCII, AJR – “Too Late”

Described by Quinn XCII as a song centered around the “bittersweet moment where you can’t go back to who you were,” “Too Late” is the next look at the artist’s new album, The People’s Champ (out in full today, January 27th). The singer-songwriter has pulled in indie pop trio AJR for Track 7, which uses a horn riff, tambourines, and driving piano to keep a hopeful momentum balancing out the air of acceptance in the lyrics here. It’s not melancholy, exactly — it’s just real. — M. Siroky

Avalon Emerson & The Charm – “Sandrail Silhouette”

Avalon Emerson is stepping out from the DJ booth and into a brand new style. She built her name on percussion-heavy deep house, but now, she assumes a guitar-rooted dream pop identity, and “Sandrail Silhouette” marks her first release as Avalon Emerson & The Charm. The warm, patient tones of “Sandrail Silhouette” are evocative and comforting, and her gentle vocals sit blissfully above a wash of sound. It takes a lot of courage to expand your musical identity into something far beyond the thumping ecstasy of house music, but Avalon Emerson is making it sound easy. — P.R.

Joseph – “Nervous System” 

“The harder you thrash, the more likely we’ll end up capsized.” Looking at anxiety and trauma through the lens of a pop song is a fine line to walk, but the members of Joseph are able to pull it off in their new song, “Nervous System,” which arrives ahead of a new album from the trio. As always with the group, band synergy is one thing, but harmonies between sisters like those offered here just can’t be faked. “Nervous System” kicks off the new era for Joseph with a bright, empowering spark. — M. Siroky

Fucked Up – “Cicada” 

Softer and sweeter on the ears than Fucked Up’s recent punk-forward singles, “Cicada” is a sentimental reflection on life after loss. Guitarist Mike Haliechuk takes on lead vocals duties, contrasting Damian Abraham’s usual grit with a clean, soaring melody. Backed by alt-rock instrumentation and emotionally-tinged guitar lines in the back half, “Cicada” acts as both a cool down for One Day (out today, January 27th) and a genuinely touching moment as the record comes to a close. — Jonah Krueger

Free Range – “Growing Away” 

At just 18 years old, Sofia Jensen is already penning compelling, impressively constructed indie folk. “Growing Away,” the newest track from their Free Range project, is yet another showcase of the immediacy of Jensen’s tuneful approach to songwriting. Like an updated take on early Pinegrove, the somewhat twangy, emotionally bare song has you swaying along while it guns for your heartstrings. With their debut album Practice due next month, it might just be the perfect time to get on the Free Range bandwagon. — J.K.

deathcrash – “Empty Heavy”

Following last year’s excellent Return, deathcrash have wasted no time announcing their next record, Less. “Empty Heavy” arrives as the first taste of the new LP and doubles down on the dynamic slow-core the band has been perfecting since their debut. Starting intimate and dejected, the tune crumbles under the weight of its emotions and ends with an explosion of catharsis, complete with screams, massive guitar tones, and loud, pounding drums. Fans of fellow British post-rock bands like Black Country, New Road should take notice, as they might find their newest obsession. — J.K.

Maisie Peters – “Body Better”

New year, new Maisie. The singer-songwriter has unveiled “Body Better,” a preview of her forthcoming album, and though the song is drenched in upbeat, sugary production, it’s misleading; lyrically, Peters wears her insecurities regarding a former lover on her sleeve, ruminating about a recent breakup and the anxiety that comes with comparing yourself to their new partner — even if they don’t yet exist. It’s the nonsensical attempt at rationalizing we all go through in the pain of breakup, when you wonder if there was anything else you could have done to save an already-doomed ship. “Loving you was easy/ That’s why it hurts now,” she sings with frankness. We’ve all been there. — Cady Siregar

corook – “the dog” 

Self-described “singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and huge fuckin dork” corook explores the finer logistics of a break up with wit and acuity on her latest single. “the dog” features the songwriter fighting for pet custody over a shared dog between ex-partners. Sparse and vulnerable, a lightly textured acoustic guitar accompanies her soft-spoken vocals through the hypothetical custody battle. “I’ll take all the blame for what I did wrong, but who gets to keep the dog?” she sings over the chorus. corook is becoming adept at crafting narratives with intentionality and humor, calling audiences to mourn and laugh alongside her. — Grace Ann Natanawan

PACKS – “4th of July”

On “4th of July,” the lead single off their upcoming sophomore album Crispy Crunchy Nothing, Canadian slacker rock band PACKS imagines a Fourth of July celebration complete with Dixie cups and shattered dreams. Of the song, vocalist Madeleine Link explains, “What can I do if I don’t understand something? Write a song about it! The 4th of July is a celebration that sums up a lot of questions I have about how we like to live today in this glorious year of 2023.”

Her loose, rugged vocals are grounded by the song’s earthy guitar tones, in Pavement-esque fashion. The band thrives in the detached rhythm and intricate guitar flourishes, and Link meanders in her discomfort throughout the song, singing, “I have no idea what’s happening right now/ no fucking clue what’s going on right now.” The band might not understand what’s happening, but it sure sounds good. — G.A.N.

TOMORROW X TOGETHER – “Happy Fools” feat. Coi Leray

K-pop quintet TOMORROW X TOGETHER are back with The Name Chapter: Temptation, which feels both like new ground for the act and a welcome return to form. Following a chapter of darkness and good boys gone bad, TXT are back to sonic brightness with five new tracks reminiscent of the “Blue Hour” era that introduced the boys to so many listeners back in 2020. Each song on the mini-album is a blast, and the bossa nova bop “Happy Fools” enlists American rapper Coi Leray for a truly fantastic verse — set your “Rollies to Korean time,” everyone, because this is one new release you don’t want to miss. — M. Siroky

Top Songs Playlist:

Song of the Week: Gorillaz Dazzle on the Hypnotic “Silent Running” with Adeleye Omotayo
Paolo Ragusa and Consequence Staff

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