David Byrne is one of the greatest cult figures of our time. As the frontman to Talking Heads, Bryne reimagined every aspect of popular music, tattooing it with an indelible mark that is still yet to fade so many years later. Bryne’s left-field approach to songwriting, performance and production can still be felt in the fabric of music culture today.
His work both with Talking Heads and as a solo musician has been cited as a major influence by countless artists, and he continues to surprise us with new and exciting ventures into the world of art, music and, as was the case with his recent book How Music Works, critical theory.
Part of Byrne’s universal appeal is the way he is able to incorporate seemingly incompatible genres into his music. Take Talking Head’s 1980 album Remain In Light, for example, an album that blended funk, afrobeat, punk and electronic music to astonishing effect. His diverse listening habits have undoubtedly informed his unique output, so it was fascinating to discover that, in 2011, Byrne shared one of his personal iPod playlists.
Looking at the tracks on that expertly curated mix, it’s clear that Bryne has always had an appetite for new music. Unlike some of his new wave contemporaries, he has never appeared stuck in the past, refusing to deify the CBGBs generation. Rather, Byrne has always seemed to regard the downtown punk scene of the mid-1970s as a brief moment in a perenially evolving musical culture.
In an interview in 2011, Byrne opened up about his listening habits and admitted that he often doesn’t often notice the DNA of his music in the work of young artists, explaining: “The embarrassing part is that I find that I don’t notice that right away, a friend will point it out, and it will be embarrassing because it will be like, ‘Well ok, that’s why I like that group so much.'”
The playlist he shared during that interview is as varied as you would expect from a man whose interests range from cycling to urban planning and multimedia performance art. In 2011, he was listening to the likes of Alabama Shakes, (who had just released their debut self-titled EP) the avant-funk sounds of Fol Chen, and Lisse’s brooding lo-fi folk covers. Especially in the case of Fol Chen, all of the tracks on Byrne’s playlist appear to contain some strand of Talking Heads DNA. Whether or not Byrne was aware of that, we cannot be sure.
Interestingly, when Byrne shared the playlist, many of the artists he was listening to were relatively unheard of or were yet to achieve critical success. How very on-brand for an artist who has since come to be regarded as one of the world’s most revered musical outsiders.
You can check out the playlist below.
The unique iPod playlist of David Byrne:
- Alabama Shakes – ‘Hold On’
- People Get Ready – ‘Uncanny’
- Lissie – ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ (KiD CuDi cover)
- Bright Monets – ‘Travellers’
- Future Islands – ‘Balance’
- Fol Chen – ‘The New December’
- David Lynch – ‘These Are My Friends’
- James Blake – ‘We Might Feel Unsound’