Out Today: Gorillaz

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Gorillaz
Plastic Beach
(Virgin)

When Gorillaz debut more than 10 years ago, it seemed to be nothing more than a whimsical side project for Blur’s Damon Albarn, who surrounded himself with a cast of “virtual musicians” (Albarn and the group are represented by cartoons). While the project continues to be anything but organic, the albums are carefully crafted and attract A-list artists. The band’s third album suggests the group has moved beyond the side-project stage. Half the fun is identifying the many guests. Is that the Fall’s Mark E. Smith sneering his way through the electro-punk freakout “Glitter Freeze”? It sure is. And is that Snoop Dogg welcoming us to the “plastic beach” on the album’s breezy title track? Yep. And could that be Rock Hall of Famer Bobby Womack and Mos Def contributing vocals to the groovy “Stylo”? Yes again. But the cameos never come off as frivolous or self-serving; Plastic Beach is surprisingly coherent. On the lazy, hazy “Rhinestone Eyes” and the snappy “Some Kind of Nature” (which finally gives Lou Reed the opportunity to rap), the hip-hop and electronic mix is seamlessly infectious. —Jeff Niesel

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