“American Utopia” David Byrne
The former lead singer-songwriter of the Talking Heads is back with his first solo album since 2004. True, he hasn’t been idle lately. During this time, he’s released two highly acclaimed collaborations, one with Brian Eno and another with St. Vincent. He’s written a musical and scored a movie, and been involved in numerous other creative projects. At 66 (in May), he shows no signs of slowing down — and will be on a very ambitious tour all spring and summer — visiting the Bay Area in August. “American Utopia” is no sentimental journey back in time. It features indie pop-rock that is both melodic and, in many ways, experimental. Built on drum tracks originally created by Eno, the songs make use of a number of collaborators and feature a variety of rhythms, electronic effects and noise within the arrangements. The lyrics are typical Byrne — intelligent, full of wonder and disarmingly original — telling life stories from unexpected perspectives. In many ways, it seems like Byrne is still trying to figure out, ”How did I get here?”
Recommended: 9, 2, 1, 6, 8, 4. FCC on Track 3.
1. (3:34) I Dance Like This — Lo-fi piano ballad that breaks into brief Devo-like robotic dance moments several times during the song. ***
2. (3:20) Gasoline and Dirty Sheets — Nice, bouncy groove driven by a consistent bass line and skittering drum track. Vocals recall early Talking Heads. ***
3. (4:46) Every Day Is a Miracle — Sentimental and swelling over synth orchestra and Jamaican rhythms. Very off-the-wall lyrics. FCCs: shit and “dick of a donkey” (perhaps not a violation, but better for safe harbor)
4. (2:30) Dog’s Mind — Down-tempo synth-pop ballad about just how great dogs’ lives are. **
5. (4:31) This Is That — Another rhythm-driven song — disconnected beats, swirls and noise. Piano and harpsichord in the lead break.
6. (4:11) It’s Not Dark Up Here — Exotic rhythm under a funky song that’s again reminiscent of the Talking Heads. “Hey! It’s not dark up here!” ***
7. (3:10) Bullet — Fragile electro-pop with Byrne crooning about the destruction a bullet causes to a body. Almost a nursery rhyme feeling in contrast to the dark subject matter.
8. (3:39) Doing the Right Thing — Avant-garde lounge tune that transitions into a synth-powered progressive anthem in the lead break — then ends quietly. ***
9. (3:30) Everybody’s Coming to my House — The single. Just a great tune! Jittery, syncopated beat and busy bass line supporting Byrne’s upper-register vocals. ****
10. (4:14) Here — Sustained synth layers woven throughout a down-tempo tune with syncopated drumming. Byrne’s vocals soar above.