After enjoying a run of four hit singles since late 2018 Birds Of Tokyo will finally bundle all these songs plus seven more onto a new album called Human Design. The release will land April 24 and will be launched via some very special shows with Australia’s leading Symphony Orchestras (see details below).
Pre-order Human Design here.
The lyrics on Human Design share a strong thread because they were largely inspired by a tumultuous period in the personal life of frontman, Ian Kenny. He dealt with his marriage breakup directly in the radio smash The Greatest Mistakes plus the ARIA Award nominated Good Lord while the anthemic Unbreakable provided a different perspective on the same dire situation. More recently the celebratory top 3 iTunes success Two Of Us ushered in the next chapter of his story.
“These four singles we’ve released over the last 18 months have each been very personal and direct in different ways”, Kenny explains. “It’s great that they seem to have struck deep chords with lots of people but in the first instance I was just writing words to stop myself going nuts. Creating this music with the guys in the band was really a form of free therapy that’s then played out later in public so this album is really the culmination of that whole process.”
Birds guitarist Adam Spark who co-wrote the songs and produced them with long time collaborator and mixer Scott Horscroft reflects: “We knew we had some pretty special music pouring out of us but we wanted to take our time to get it right and Kenny needed time to process a lot of stuff as we went along. On lots of our favourite old records all the songs really hang together for some reason or other so we all wanted to do that here.”
In that respect Human Design is taking a classic old fashioned approach to what an album can be. It’s clearly crafted around the actual experience of a breakup and new beginning. The songs move from the pain of a marriage breakup (Good Lord) through a kind of acceptance (Designed) and rebuilding (Unbreakable) on to the embrace of new loves (Two Of Us and My Darling, My Son) before finally arriving at the aptly titled closing track Never Going Back.
However in other ways Human Design is decidedly modern. On the four Birds Of Tokyo albums from between 2008 and 2016 the band typically lead with a single or two before releasing the long form work as was standard in those days of CD’s and downloads. In the streaming age though that’s all changed as albums have been increasingly marginalised and it’s all about individual tracks. So the decision to build up to this record over 18 months with four successful singles reflects the 2020 reality that it’s now very hard to get people to focus on more than one song at a time. Hopefully the presence of so many familiar tracks on Human Design and the strong narrative linkages that run through the material will allow this to be an album that receives more than the usual focus albums get nowadays.
Birds Of Tokyo’s decision to launch this new work with big orchestral shows also reflects how much Human Design means to to them. Although some of the new songs, like Dive feature string arrangements, the material on the album isn’t actually symphonic. However the band was keen to keep pushing the boundaries and to make a splash around the release so they jumped at the opportunity to re-imagine this new work, as well as some of their catalogue with these leading orchestras.
Having just completed a string of big outdoor summer gigs as special guests with Cold Chisel, Birds Of Tokyo will now pivot to playing with symphonies in places like the Sydney Town Hall, Melbourne’s Hamer Hall and the Perth Concert Hall. Such a sudden change of scene would give many artists whiplash but it reflects this particular band’s unusual breadth.