- Personnel: David Wrench (programming).
- Audio Mixer: David Wrench.
- Recording information: Crowspacer Studio, NYC; DB Spare Bedroom, NYC; Livingston Studio 1, London; Oscilloscope Studio, NYC; Reservoir Studios, NYC; XL Studios, NYC.
- "Is this meant ironically? Is it a joke? Do I mean this seriously? In what way?" David Byrne seems to be simultaneously inviting and acknowledging some likely reactions to his 2018 album, American Utopia, in his own liner notes. At a time when America has been thrown into a state of chaos -- something Byrne witnessed and creatively reacted to as an artist during the Reagan era -- here he imagines what appears to be an alternate version of the United States and the people who live in it. (Animals, too -- a variety of critters pop up in "Every Day Is a Miracle," and "Dog's Mind" imagines how our canine friends view the world.) Not everything in Byrne's Bizarro World America is a good time, especially on "Gasoline and Dirty Sheets" and "This Is That." But much of this album portrays folks who are both dazzled and overwhelmed by the abundant possibilities presented in "It's Not Dark Up Here," "Everybody's Coming to My House," and "I Dance Like This." American Utopia began as a series of rhythm tracks created by Brian Eno, which Byrne then fashioned into songs, with a variety of other collaborators reshaping the results, including co-producers Rodaidh McDonald and Patrick Dillett and musicians Daniel Lopatin, Thomas Bartlett, and Joey Waronker. The final product is a sonic crazy quilt that's rich and evocative, by turns ominous and seductive, and the stylistic shape-shifting that dominates these tracks suits the many moods of Byrne's characters very well indeed. In concept, American Utopia bears faint resemblance to the cheerfully odd average Americans who populated Talking Heads' 1986 album True Stories (and Byrne's accompanying feature film), but this album's wit is more pointed, the tone is cooler and less secure, and the cumulative effect less joyous and a bit more puzzled about what awaits us with the next dawn. 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. ~ Mark Deming
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he album boasts some of the most exciting music Byrne has made in years....The balance of light and dark is especially compelling on 'Bullet'..."
Spin - "AMERICAN UTOPIA is filled with short and simply written songs, their pensive verses bursting into jubilant choruses on a fairly reliable schedule."
Uncut - "'This is that' is a yearning tribute to the power of music, sung over synthetic chinese zither..."
NME (Magazine) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[I]n its own abstract way, it confronts the big questions....It's melodic, goofy and very quirky."
Paste (magazine) - "[I]t'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."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[W]ith his latest, Byrne does what so few of his peers will: He takes some actual risks."
Clash (Magazine) - "[A] whimsical, weird and totally wonderful set of songs....An inquisitive and hopeful ray of sunshine filled with foot tapping beats and memorable wordplay."