Albarn spent the past two decades making music with Blur, Gorillaz and the Good, the Bad and the Queen. "It's possible I was subconsciously avoiding a solo album," he says. But two years ago he produced Bobby Womack's comeback LP alongside XL Records owner Richard Russell. "Richard and I decided to keep exploring what we were doing," says Albarn. He gave Russell a cache of 60-plus songs and let him choose. Some were digital files, some were on cassettes, some on scraps of paper. Some were recorded on cellphones, including "Mr. Tembo," which Albarn wrote to sing to a baby elephant adopted by friends in Tanzania.