News of a new David Byrne album called American Utopia leaked last month, and today the former Talking Heads leader has officially announced the album. Byrne’s first solo LP since 2004’s Grown Backwards features collaborations with Brian Eno, producer Rodaidh McDonald, Oneohtrix Point Never, Jam City, Doveman, Jack Peñate, and more. Below, read David Byrne’s liner notes and listen to lead single “Everybody’s Coming To My House,” co-written with Brian Eno and featuring contributions from TTY, Happa Isaiah Barr, and Sampha.
Speaking about the album, Byrne said:
Is this meant ironically? Is it a joke? Do I mean this seriously? In what way? Am I referring to the past or the future? Is it personal or political? These songs don’t describe an imaginary or possibly impossible place but rather attempt to depict the world we live in now. Many of us, I suspect, are not satisfied with that world — the world we have made for ourselves. We look around and we ask ourselves — well, does it have to be like this? Is there another way? These songs are about that looking and that asking.
This album is indirectly about those aspirational impulses. Sometimes to describe is to reveal, to see other possibilities. To ask a question is to begin the process of looking for an answer. To be descriptive is also to be prescriptive, in a way. The act of asking is a big step. The songs are sincere — the title is not ironic. The title refers not to a specific utopia, but rather to our longing, frustration, aspirations, fears, and hopes regarding what could be possible, what else is possible. The description, the discontent and the desire — I have a feeling that is what these songs touch on.
America, or to be correct — the United States — was founded as a utopian experiment. One can point out that yes, there were less than noble business interests at play, and this experiment applied only to white males of means, much of which is still true. Clearly there was poison in the well, and much of what was built was built on the backs of slaves, with half the country disenfranchised. There was genocide, exploitation and land grabs. But I’m talking about perception, which is different than reality. The perception was (past tense) that here might be a new way of living, of cooperating with one another, even if the experiment was being played out only by a portion of the population. The rest of the world, for a long time, viewed the American experiment as exciting, noble and something to be emulated — at least in the ways it succeeded. It was viewed as a fresh start, a place where old, ingrained ideas could be jettisoned, and a world of both fairness and opportunity could be established. Though it never did succeed in all its aims, enough of them were realized in its brief history to give hope to many.
Now it seems — in this place, and in others — we are seeing those dreams, those possibilities, being withdrawn. The experiment seems on the verge of complete and utter collapse. So naturally, we now ask ourselves — was it too much to ask? Were we wrong about how humans can be? Can we start over? Is there another way? A different way? Do we have any choice in the matter? This asking is a good sign.
I have no prescriptions or surefire answers, but I sense that I am not the only one looking and asking, wondering and still holding onto some tiny bit of hope, unwilling to succumb entirely to despair or cynicism.
It’s not easy, but music helps. Music is a kind of model — it often tells us or points us toward how we can be.
American Utopia tracklist:
01 “I Dance Like This”
02 “Gasoline And Dirty Sheets”
03 “Every Day Is A Miracle”
04 “Dog’s Mind”
05 “This Is That”
06 “It’s Not Dark Up Here”
08 “Doing The Right Thing”
09 “Everybody’s Coming To My House”
David Byrne says that the world tour in support of America Utopia will be “the most ambitious show I’ve done since the shows that were filmed for Stop Making Sense.” Here are the tour dates:
03/03 Red Bank, NJ @ Count Basie Theatre
03/04 Wilkes-Barre, PA @ F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts
03/06 Buffalo, NY @ Center For The Arts
03/07 Hershey, PA @ Hershey Theatre
03/09 Waterbury, CT @ Palace Theater
03/10 Kingston, NY @ Ulster Performing Arts Center
03/16 Santiago, CHI @ Lollapalooza (Chile)
03/18 Buenos Aires, ARG @ Lollapalooza (Argentina)
03/24 Sao Paulo, BRA @ Lollapalooza (Brazil)
04/07 Guadalajara, MEX @ Sonico Festival
04/14 Indio, CA @ Coachella
04/21 Indio, CA @ Coachella
06/22-23 Prague, Czech Republic @ Metronome Festival
06/25 Zagreb, Croatia @ INmusic Festival
06/30-07/01 Ewijk, Netherlands @ Down The Rabbit Hole
06/30-07/07 Roskilde, Denmark @ Roskilde Festival
07/05 Gdynia, Poland @ Open’er Festival
07/11 Oeiras, Portugal @ Cool Jazz Festival
07/13 Bilbao, Spain @ Bilbao BBK Live Festival
07/13-14 Barcelona, Spain @ Cruilla Barcelona
07/19 Ravenna, Italy @ Ravenna Festival
07/20 Perugia, Italy @ Umbria Jazz Festival
07/21 Trieste, Italy @ Piazza UNita
07/27 Camden, NJ @ XPoNential Music Festival
American Utopia is out 3/9 via Todomundo/Nonesuch Records.