Those who have only casually appreciated Brian Eno‘s music may not think of him as a singer. Given that his best-known solo recording Music for Airports not only has no lyrics but contains few recognizable instruments, that perception makes a certain amount of sense. Still, it’s incorrect: in fact, Eno has a great enthusiasm for singing, and indeed he has credited the practice with developing “a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humor” — though that last is surely on display in the remark itself.
Though Eno may still be most widely considered a pioneer or popularizer of ambient music, a listen through his discography will reveal how well his singing skills have served him for nearly half a century now. Released just last month, his new album FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE marks a return to lyrical songs, a form he hasn’t practiced on an album since 2005’s Another Day on Earth.
As the now-74-year-old Eno says in its press materials, “My voice has changed, it’s lowered, it’s become a different personality I can sing from. I don’t want to sing like a teenager.” And “as for writing songs again — it’s more landscapes, but this time with humans in them.” He’s been describing his music and art this way for quite some time: here on Open Culture, we’ve even featured a 1989 documentary about it called Imaginary Landscapes.
Judging by some of FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE’s lyrics, not to mention its title, the landscapes he perceives seem to have become fragile; none of them, perhaps, are now especially long for existence. That impression may well be underscored by the three song videos collected in this playlist, “Garden of Stars,” “We Let It In,” and “There Were Bells.” Each has its own style: the first is kaleidoscopic, the second is verbal, and the third is a full-fledged live shoot featuring Eno and his brother-collaborator Roger performing amid the ruins of the Acropolis of Athens. Given Eno’s penchant for concepts novel, expansive, and contradictory, one might call the sensibility of this latest album a kind of optimistic Ozymandianism.
Below you can also watch a playlist of animated tracks (or “visualizers”) for ten songs on the new album.
The Brian Eno Discography: Stream 29 Hours of Recordings by the Master of Ambient Music
Ambient Kyoto: Brian Eno Stages His First Large-Scale Exhibition in Japan
When David Bowie & Brian Eno Made a Twin Peaks-Inspired Album, Outside (1995)
Deconstructing Brian Eno’s Music for Airports: Explore the Tape Loops That Make Up His Groundbreaking Ambient Music
Hear Brian Eno Sing The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” as Part of The Best Live Album of the Glam/Prog Era (1976)
Brian Eno Lists the Benefits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intelligence, and a Sound Civilization
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.