AOTY 2018

American Utopia

David Byrne - American Utopia
Critic Score
Based on 29 reviews
2018 Ratings: #515 / 706
User Score
Based on 166 ratings
2018 Ratings: #542
March 9, 2018 / Release Date
LP / Format
Todomundo, Nonesuch / Label
Art Pop / Genres
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CRITIC REVIEWS

84
Sputnikmusic

Byrne isn't shying away from the bigger picture on American Utopia by the pretense of making a positive record, but is trying his damn best to encourage listeners to contribute to making the world a better place and fixing the problem they may have perpetuated.

80
Clash

With a little help from old buddy Brain Eno, in addition to younger guns like Sampha and Jam City, Byrne has managed to distil his unique brand of social commentary and fused it with a sense of joy too often missing from alternative music.

80
NME

It’s an album packed with Byrne’s trademark eccentricity, with the odd immediately accessible moment.

80
The Line of Best Fit

As recently as his last record – Love This Giant with St. Vincent – he produced a glorious, real masterpiece. So, strangely, this is just business as usual for a man who, at this stage, would find it impossible to make anything less than amazing. Long may he continue.

80
Northern Transmissions

Across 10 tracks, Byrne and company create chamber-like moments often intruded by electronics.

80
The Telegraph

American Utopia is another glittering offering from an old master – in itself, a very good reason to be cheerful.

80
musicOMH

American Utopia is epic, it’s sprawling, it’s filled with everything but the kitchen sink, but most of all, it’s filled with promise.

80
FLOOD Magazine

Nothing has changed and everything has changed (this might be Byrne’s most cosmopolitan album), and that’s how David Byrne is best served.

79
Paste

It’s a David Byrne album: cerebral, but with an irresistible beat; and exuberant, but in a way that is self-contained. And if America right now is something less than a utopia, Byrne is a force for positivity, exhorting us all to do better.

75
A.V. Club

A mixed bag of songs recorded with a variety of collaborators, American Utopia finds the nearly 66-year-old artist prodding at the stuff of modern life from a remote, but not unemotional, perch.

75
Consequence of Sound
It’s a worthy effort from a living legend, full of songs that are at least interesting and at times breathtaking.
74
GIGsoup
There are moments of gloom and uncertainty, but ‘American Utopia’ turns the road to nowhere into the road to hope.
70
Loud and Quiet
With it’s broadly uplifting melodies, and quizzical lyrics, ‘American Utopia’ offers listeners a little escapism rather than biting satire or concrete solutions.
70
Rolling Stone

When it does, rhythms and racket ratcheting up accordingly, American Utopia ... boasts some of the most exciting music Byrne has made in years.

70
AllMusic

American Utopia is an album of beautiful and witty surfaces stretched over a sea of troubled waters, and if Byrne is rarely inclined to give direct answers to the questions he asks, it's obvious this isn't a joke, it's an ambitious work from an important American artist.

70
The Needle Drop

While not quite the grand artistic and social statement it was intended to be, American Utopia is brimming with forward-thinking pop and David Byrne's unique persona.

70
Spectrum Culture

His most cohesive work in ages, and a surprising highlight of the year so far.

70
Uncut

Left to his own devices, Byrne comes home to a screwball hymnal mode that for all the lyrical left turns, feels a little too predictable.

65
The 405

While American Utopia has its missteps it is, on the whole, a joyous record that only Byrne could make; an album that is inquisitive not just about the world of today but of music’s power to transport and uplift us.

60
Slant Magazine

While American Utopia isn't as vital a statement as it wants to be, it's the sound of one of pop music's most idiosyncratic voices continuing to follow his wayward muse.

60
American Songwriter

Repeated plays help the melodies cohere but considering the gap between 2004’s Grown Backwards and this often disjointed, intermittently engaging set, the long awaited venture from one of modern rock’s most eclectic and hardworking architects is disappointing.

60
Exclaim!
In its best moments, the record is an uplifting antidote to troubled times. But that uplift comes at the expense of a deeper meaning, more distraction than catharsis.
60
DIY

Much like the United States itself right now, ‘American Utopia’ isn’t a complete paradise. Yet, there’s enough upbeat vibes on offer here to perhaps make you feel a little more optimistic about the future.

60
The Observer

Songs like Every Day Is a Miracle skew largely towards the bright side – a mature and thoughtful reaction to the despair felt by many in the wake of Trump’s presidency.  This being Byrne, one of pop’s most refreshing thinkers, it’s not as simple as chipper equanimity, however.

60
Dork

Even the most lacklustre offerings on this album are worth listening to for the lyrics alone, and at its very best ‘American Utopia’ features some of Byrne’s most accessible, most fun and (whisper it) most Talking Heads songs in years.

58
Pitchfork

David Byrne’s first true solo album in 14 years is daring and open-hearted. The risks Byrne takes on these songs, however, too often feel clumsy or gaudy.

55
Under The Radar

The nature of experimental pioneers is that they will make some truly horrible mistakes, but the thing that keeps you invested as a listener is that there is still a chance that they'll strike gold eventually. Neither of these two extremities are true of American Utopia and, whilst there are flashes of intriguing and exciting music on here, these moments aren't enough to convince anyone listening that the project is a complete success.

40
The Independent
There’s always been an element of disinterested distance in David Byrne’s work, a sort of numbed passivity to life’s quirky minutiae, but it dominates this latest album.
40
The Guardian

Byrne is too instinctive a songwriter to ever totally miss the mark, and his melodic gifts certainly haven’t left him – but this album often tends towards a ghastly dystopia of kitsch.

Music_Observer
71
The problem with listeners feeling the need to compare music with the musician’s past work is quite easily evidenced in the career of David Byrne. From once spearheading one of the greatest rocks bands of all time, to collaborating on some incredible ambient work, to writing one of the preeminent modern books on music “How Music Works”, Byrne is easily one of the best living musicians. He can ultimately do what he wants, and it’s not in anyone’s power to berate a ... read more
Z.Younk
66
As a fan of even the obscure work he's done such as The Cathrine Wheel, this is really just not great work. I've enjoyed everyone of his projects throughout the years but the songs feel haphazard and sometimes overwrought
AmericaanSpirit
80
Purely quirky and adventurous. Equally fun and thought provoking, while always keeping its groove air tight. The production blows me away with every listen, it’s like being in a different world from how crisp it sounds. When this album starts to lose itself in its own theatrics, it quickly picks itself back up, as if it was intended the whole time. This is definitely the closest thing we’ll ever get to another Talking Heads record, and that’s good enough for me. David still ... read more
Rob_StA
81
Favorite Tracks:
I Dance Like This
It's Not Dark Up Here
Everybody's Coming To My House
jordymusic
65
Original Rating: 65/100

American Utopia is just too cheesy and the problem mainly arises in the immature lyrics and the ideas proposed within them, the record is really well produced and there's a bunch of nice instrumental work in there too I only wish the lyrics could be more profound as David Byrne is capable

However, his vocal work is still resoundingly interesting and its his involving voice and peculiar affections which stop this record from ever becoming a bore, I liked 'Everybody's ... read more
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END OF YEAR LISTS

#17/Fopp
#50/The Line of Best Fit
#53/Uncut
#60/PopMatters

Track List

  1. I Dance Like This
  2. Gasoline and Dirty Sheets
  3. Every Day Is a Miracle
  4. Dog's Mind
  5. This Is That
  6. It's Not Dark Up Here
  7. Bullet
  8. Doing the Right Thing
  9. Everybody's Coming To My House
  10. Here
Contributions By
thisisabtlgrnd, patton, pouls, Z.Younk
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Added on: January 8, 2018