Oakland-based singer-songwriter Stephen Steinbrink’s eighth studio album Utopia Teased is due out this Friday, Nov. 9, via Western Vinyl / Melodic Records, but you can stream the LP in full today, exclusively at Paste.
Steinbrink wrote Utopia Teased in the immediate aftermath of the tragic December 2016 fire that claimed 36 lives at Oakland art collective Ghost Ship—the grief-wracked singer-songwriter sequestered himself in his shipping container studio to write and record what would become his new album, eating LSD daily and staying awake for days at a time, as if he were riding out a spiritual sickness.
“I was driving the preamps a little too hard, mixing down to tape, bouncing back to the computer, and repeating the process over and over again,” Steinbrink recalls. “I wanted it to reflect how fried my brain felt at the time, totally pulverized. The songs just poured out of me, it hardly felt like work to make them up. It was like turning on a spigot.”
What gushed out is a 37-minute dream that teeters on the knife edge of a nightmare. Steinbrink grapples with all existence over distorted synths, drum machines and guitars, holding his own eyes open to take in the horror and beauty of it all: “Dreams are so fucked up / Even the really good ones,” he sings on the Rosie Steffy-penned “Zappa Dream,” wondering, “Would it be such a bad thing / to be finished with living?”
Steinbrink continues, aiming a knockout counterpunch at the cynicism that overwhelmed him after the fire:
There is a magic on this earth / in cats and clouds and cars / for everything that you call “real” / was once the dust of stars / Yeah you have been a river rock / and a drop of rain / and with any bit of luck / you’ll be those things again / Are you in love with your life or a dream / or just overwhelmed / wondering what this could possibly mean?
Utopia Teased is a vital follow-up to 2016’s Anagrams, one that finds Steinbrink forgoing that album’s pristine production in favor of something far more warped—a faithful reflection of his head space in all its disarray, awash in agonized humanity.
Steinbrink announced his latest in early September, offering a first taste in the form of woozy album opener “Bad Love.” He followed that up with “Mom” (feat. Jay Som) in early October before wrapping up with the month with Utopia Teased’s third and final advance track, “A Part Of Me Is A Part Of You.”
Stream Utopia Teased with the help of the LP’s time-tagged tracklist below, and keep on scrolling for Steinbrink’s tour dates. You can preorder a copy of his album right here.
Utopia Teased Tracklist:
01. Bad Love – 0:00
02. I Wanna Be Free – 2:57
03. A Part of Me is a Part of You – 5:27
04. Empty Vessel – 8:18
05. Maximum Sunlight – 10:23
06. Zappa Dream – 13:50
07. Coming Down – 17:59
08. Mom – 19:15
09. In Another Kind of Dream – 21:20
10. Become Sphere – 25:30
11. You Could Always Leave – 28:25
12. I’m Never Changing Who You Are – 31:55
Stephen Steinbrink Tour Dates:
01 – Seattle, Wash. @ Woodland Theater
02 – Olympia, Wash. @ Hobbit Hole *
04 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ Bootleg Theater #
06 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ Rebel Lounge %
11 – San Francisco, Calif. @ Hotel Utah ^
(# w/ Lomelda, Musical Tracing & Wizard Apprentice)
(* w/ Wolfgang Strutz)
(% w/ Sean Bonnette [of AJJ])
(^ w/ Advance Base & Lisa/Liza)