Photo by Jody Rogac
Written by Bill Pearis
David Byrne‘s anticipated new album is indeed called American Utopia and he’s just announced details of it. The record will be out March 9 via Todomundo/Nonesuch and the first single is “Everybody’s Coming to My House” which was co-written with Brian Eno, and features contributions from TTY, Isaiah Barr (Onyx Collective), Sampha, and others. It’s funky and danceable, in an instantly recognizable David Byrne way, and you can watch the “visual accompaniment” for that — and check out album art and tracklist — below.
The album also features contributions from Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, King Krule, Sampha, Savages) Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never), Thomas Bartlett (Doveman), Jack Peñate, and others.
Of the record and its title, David says:
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.
David’s upcoming tour, which he calls his most ambitious stage show since Stop Making Sense, gets a test run in March with a few East Coast dates and he’ll be at Coachella, Shaky Knees and other festivals and dates, with more to be announced. All dates are listed below.
Meanwhile, David will be presenting one of his “Reasons to be Cheerful” talks at NYC’s The New School today (1/8) at 12:30 PM EST which you can stream live via Facebook and you can watch that below.