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Editor’s Pick #167: Daniel Johnston with New Album and Tour?! by Eric Vilas-Boas
Daniel Johnston's releasing a new album after six years of inactivity

Daniel Johnston's releasing a new album after six years of inactivity

PREVIEW: Download Daniel Johnston’s “Freedom” MP3

Most people have no idea who Daniel Johnston is. After removing himself from any particular scene and recording music since the ’70s on his boombox, he’s gone way past indie into the realm of what Wikipedia calls “outsider music” (yeah, whatever). He’s coming out with a new album, Is and Always Was, and a fall tour, and why should we care? Because he’s Daniel Johnston!

Those who do know about him admit that his career has frequently been — as a result of crippling bipolar disorder — inconsistent. He falters at live performances, writes songs that range from “spotty to brilliant” according to Pitchfork, and remains mostly reclusive. (One memorable story from the early ’90s places him in a mental hospital with labels desperately vying to sign him.)

However, Johnston’s finest work consists of some of the most transient and wistful lo-fi ever made. The opener on his 1983 “unfinished album” Hi, How Are You is a simple, two-minute a cappella tale of a man in depression, waking up each morning “dreading each moment he had to be awake.” In his dreams he has a woman — an angel — who comes to him and tells him “No one understands you / Poor you, poor you.” By the end of the song, Johnston’s revealed that the story — though “not told well” — is his own.

This knack for combining direct, hard-hitting lyrics with subtlety goes largely unappreciated. Hopefully, that talent hasn’t withered with age and multiple mental breakdowns (one such breakdown was the reason that brilliant album is “unfinished”). Hopefully, the “hi-fi” nature of his next release won’t get in the way of the songwriting I’ve learned to love from him. From the album art and the  track “Freedom,” that doesn’t seem to be a problem at all.

Is and Always Was drops Oct. 6, so don’t miss out!

— Eric Vilas-Boas, Production Editor

Tracklisting and tour dates below the cut!

Is and Always Was tracklisting:

01 Mind Movies
02 Fake Records of Rock and Roll
03 Queenie the Doggie
04 High Horse
05 Without You
06 I Had Lost My Mind
07 Freedom
08 Tears
09 Is and Always Was
10 Lost in My Infinite Memory
11 Light of Day

Fall Tour Schedule:

09-03 Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
09-04 Seattle, WA @ Neumos
09-05 Vancouver, British Columbia @ The Venue
09-07 Calgary, Alberta @ Knox United Church
09-08 Edmonton, Alberta @ Meyer Horowitz Theatre
10-02 Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits
10-13 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
10-14 New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom
10-15 Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
10-16 Montreal, Quebec @ UK Fed
10-17 Toronto, Ontario @ Mod Club
10-22 San Francisco, CA @ Regency Ballroom
10-23 San Diego, CA @ Cain’s
10-24 Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda Theatre
11-01 Brighton, England @ Concorde
11-02 London, England @ Union Chapel
11-03 Manchester, England @ Town Hall
11-04 Edinburgh, Scotland @ Queens Hall
11-05 Gateshead, England @ The Sage
11-06 Leeds, England @ Brudenell Social Club
11-07 Cardiff, Wales @ The Gate
11-08 Bristol, England @ Trinity Arts Center
11-11 Den Bosch, Netherlands @ W2



For anyone not familiar with Daniel Johnston, I (and probably Eric too) highly recommend the documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston.” It is the gripping tale of his life- genius wrought by mental unbalance- and is a great introduction to his music.

I want to know if he recorded his new album to a cassette. Also, hoping for a comeback of the “Hi, How are you?” alien t-shirt. (Cover Daniel drew for his cassette, made famous by Kurt Cobain, I believe is the story)


Comment by Mary C.

Mary hit the nail on the head on all of those points. Cobain was photographed many times wearing the t-shirt, and actually, I did see someone wearing one at the South St. Seaport at School of Seven Bells. It could very easily have been 20 years old though, I didn’t get a good look.

I don’t think he recorded any of his new stuff on cassette. Judging by the sound quality on “Freedom” it just seems doubtful. Still very excited though, obviously.

Comment by vilbobag

[…] SPIN reports that Soulsavers opened up their U.S. tour in Portland, Oregon last night, in support of their new album, Broken. Soulsavers, fronted by The Screaming Trees and Gutter Twins lead singer Mark Lanegan, will be playing 15 shows through the month of September. Unfortunately for us, the closest they’ll be coming to Syracuse is NYC’s Bowery Ballroom on the 22nd, and Toronto’s Mod Club on the 25th. Maybe it’s worth the trip though, for you diehards out there. If you were in Seattle, you might have caught them at Bumbershoot, too (see above). [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Daniel Johnston to Play at Mod Club and Elsewhere] […]

Pingback by News of Note: Bumbershoot Festival, DD/MM/YYYY, The Beatles, and Much More « 20 Watts

Great. You have posted an important point.

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