Watch Damon Albarn play “Mr. Tembo” at the Public Radio Rocks SXSW showcase, listen to his entire set

Damon Albarn isn’t one to do things the same way twice. He explored a broad spectrum of styles under the Brit rock umbrella with Blur, switched gears to nightclub dance pop with Gorillaz, soundtracky soundscapes with The Good, The Bad and The Queen, and even dabbled in operas (Monkey, Dr. Dee). The man is nothing if not eclectic and his latest album Everyday Robots, out April 28th, and it finds him in more introspective, chamber-balladeer mode.

Yesterday at the Public Radio Rocks SXSW showcase, Albarn showed off a set of selections from the new album (along with a revisit of “El Manana” from Gorillaz’ 2004 album Demon Days) with five backing musicians plus a string quartet and the seven-voices-strong Deric Lewis and the Austin Choir Band. The singers especially shone through on “Mr. Tembo,” a jaunty selection from the new album which Albarn said was the story of a baby elephant in Tanzania whose mother was killed by poachers.

Watch a video of “Mr. Tembo” below and listen to Albarn’s entire set here (via the WXPN media player). After the jump, check out another video of the Choir on “Heavy Seas of Love.”

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SXSW Dispatch: Public Radio Rocks showcase with Damon Albarn, Lucius, Temples and more

Damon Albarn | Photo by Laura Fedele |
Damon Albarn | Photo by Laura Fedele |

Wow, what a whirlwind of an afternoon! We just wrapped up with the Public Radio Rocks SXSW showcase starring Damon Albarn, Lucius, The Hold Steady, Phantogram, Jeremy Messersmith and Temples – curated in collaboration with WFUV in New York, KUTX in Austin, KXT in Dallas, The Current in Minneapolis and WXPN in Philly. Over the next several days, we’ll bring you video and full-set audio recaps of each artist’s set. For now, peruse the gallery below for an overview of the show.


Not going to SXSW? Don’t worry. WXPN is bringing SXSW to you.

Lucius - Photo by Peter Larson
Lucius | Photo by Peter Larson

This week is the SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas – something you pretty much can’t miss if you frequent the music blogosphere. But if you’re staying home in Philly and find yourself scrolling through photos and tweets about amazing concerts you can’t go to, don’t get too bummed about it: WXPN is broadcasting sets by Lucius, Damon Albarn, The Hold Steady, Wye Oak and more live from SXSW on Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, David Dye will be recording and broadcasting four live Cafe sessions from the Four Seasons hotel in Austin as part of the KUTX Morning Show. On Friday, David will co-host the Public Radio Rocks the SXSW Day Stage showcase from the Austin Convention Center with four other public radio stations including WFUV (New York), The Current (Minneapolis), KUTX (Austin), and KXT (Dallas).

Below are the lineups and set times for each day.

Thursday – World Cafe/KUTX Four Seasons sessions
8 a.m. – Kins
9 a.m. – Phox
10 a.m. – Bright Light Social Hour
11 a.m. – Wye Oak

Friday – Public Radio Rock the SXSW Day Stage
1 p.m. – Lucius
2 p.m. – The Hold Steady
3 p.m. – Phantogram
4 p.m. – Jeremy Messersmith
5 p.m. - Temples
5:30p.m. – Damon Albarn

In addition, both World Cafe and The Key will be roving about SXSW all weekend; we’ll bring you daily recaps here on The Key, while you can get real-time updates over at World Cafe’s Tumblr page. Below, sample some of the musicians featured during the live broadcasts from SXSW, and check back for our SXSW coverage all week.


Damon Albarn, Phantogram, Lucius, Temples and more to play WXPN SXSW broadcast

Damon Albarn | Photo by Linda Brownlee
Damon Albarn | Photo by Linda Brownlee

For the second year in a row at next week’s SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas, WXPN along with public radio stations WFUV (New York), The Current (Minneapolis), KUTX (Austin), and KXT (Dallas), will be broadcasting and webcasting live. On Friday, March 14th, starting at 1PM, XPN will broadcast live performances from Temples, Lucius, Phantogram, Jeremy Messersmith, The Hold Steady, and Damon Albarn. The show will be held at the Austin Convention Center at the Radio Day Stage.


XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week: “Everyday Robots” by Damon Albarn

Photo by Linda Brownlee
Photo by Linda Brownlee

“Everyday Robots” is the title song from the solo debut album from Damon Albarn. Best known for being the frontman for the British rock band Blur and co-mastermind of multimedia pop project Gorillaz, Albarn has built up a formidable resume over the past decade. He collaborated with African drummer Tony Allen on two projects; The Good, The Bad and The Queen (with Simon Tong and Clash bassist Paul Simonon), and Rocket Juice & The Moon (with Red Hot Chili bassist Flea). He also worked on two operas, Monkey: Journey to the West and Dr. Dee.

His solo debut, out on April 29th, finds Albarn is back the pop/rock world. The album features appearances from Brian Eno and Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes, and was produced by Richard Russell with whom Albarn prodcued Bobby Womack’s The Bravest Man in the Universe.

The new WXPN Gotta Hear Song of the Week is the album’s first single, “Everyday Robots.” It begins with a sample from hipster beatnik poet and comedian Lord Buckley and settles into a sleepy, hypnotic pulse and a touch of world music influence. Lyrically, Albarn reflects on how the use of technology, our phones in this case, has dehumanized us. On one of the song’s verses he sings: “Everyday robots just touch thumbs / Swimmin’ in lingo they become / Stricken in a status sea / One more vacancy.”

The video for the song was directed by artist and designer Aitor Throup. A digital portrait of Albarn, it uses CGI software and actual cranial scans and facial reconstruction techniques. Watch the video and listen to the song below.