Jesse Malin may not drive much in his Lower East Side stomping grounds, but the New York City songwriter often puts his listeners in the passenger seat. Onstage he tells a story about riding around as a kid with his absentee father, swerving around drunks in the street who, his dad said, “had too many sodas.” And he can write a book about his early days driving a moving van for the Manhattan elite. Malin returns to the car in his new song “State of the Art,” an upbeat roots-rock piano number that announces his upcoming double album, Sad and Beautiful World.
“It’s an observation song, we’re reflecting, we’re looking,” Malin tells Rolling Stone. “I always loved being in the passenger seat as a kid driving with my mom, listening to the radio. I found something in that — something about that forward motion is very soothing for the brain, very freeing, and I was able to figure out my problems. So this song is like a window view at what’s been going on in the world.”
It’s certainly topical. Malin references racism, police brutality, and ongoing protests in the lyrics. “Another broken system and some killer cops/I read the papers and I cried a lot,” he sings, leading into the chorus: “Living in the state of the art/I’m trying not to take it to heart/while everything is falling apart/I know you wanted more this time.”
That final line is the thesis of “State of the Art,” the idea that there has to be something more.
“It’s that yearning, that need of wanting something better,” he says. “A lot of that bubbled up in the last couple years, where people said, ‘We’re not going to accept racism and hatred, we’re not going to accept sexism, we’re not going to accept buffoonery in the government. And we’re going to speak out.’ It’s written about a particular person I was watching, but that person to me represented the feeling I had and I felt so many of my people had.”
Sad and Beautiful World will be released September 24th on Wicked Cool Records as the follow-up to 2019’s Sunset Kids, Malin’s collaboration with Lucinda Williams and Tom Overby. Sad and Beautiful World marks his first double album release and is split up into two themes: One album is the Americana-leaning “Roots Rock,” the other is the more rock-focused “Radicals.”
“We didn’t set out to make two records. But I had these songs that were more sad-bastard troubadour things and then I had others that were more urban songs. For years, I put that together in my live shows — both parts of my personality as the guy who grew up on Iggy Pop but also loved Elton John — and we figured out how to make it work here,” Malin says.
Malin wrote and recorded the albums during the pandemic while also hosting and producing a regular livestream series, The Fine Art of Self Distancing. He’s back on the road now and will play a hometown show at the new venue Brooklyn Made in Brooklyn on October 23rd.
Here’s the track list for Sad and Beautiful World, produced by Derek Cruz and Geoff Sanoff.
“Before You Go”
“State of the Art”
“Tall Black Horses”
“Get Out of Here”
“Dance on My Grave”
“Crawling Back to You”
“The Way We Used to Roll”
“Todd Youth” (featuring H.R.)
“A Little Death”
“Dance with the System”
July 24 — Ardmore, PA @ Ardmore Music Hall
August 19 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Hotel Cafe
September 27 — Glasgow, Scotland @ King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
September 28 — Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK @ Cluny
September 29 — Manchester, UK @ Night & Day Café
September 30 — Leeds, UK @ Belgrave Music Hall
October 2 — Leek, UK
October 3 — Sheffield, UK
October 5 — Bristol, UK @ The Fleece
October 6 — Leicester, UK
October 7 — Nottingham, UK
October 8 — London, UK @ The Garage
October 9 — Brighton, UK
October 23 — Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Made
November 2 — Paris, FR @ La Boule Noire
November 4 — Hamburg, GER @ Nochtwache