Posts Tagged With: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

When it comes to Nick Cave’s music, much of his work, from his early aggressive days to his later more mellow yet wonderfully insightful albums, there’s always been an incredible literary element. It seems Cave has an innate ability to just weave words together, conjuring up expressive images that are wonderfully interpretive, yet also telling a very distinct story. Following the tragic news last year, there has almost been a sense of apprehension as to what Cave would do next, and how such an event would ultimately influence the music as well. Any suspicions people may have had that Skeleton Tree would be a highly charged and emotionally draining album are certainly correct in this case, understandably so.

2013’s Push The Sky Away saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds take a more somber approach to their music (think The Boatman’s Call with wonderful instrumentals), and as so, we almost see a continuation of this style on Skeleton Tree. There’s a layering to the music itself, but it still feels as naked and vulnerable as the vocals themselves. It’s perhaps difficult to really focus on the instrumental elements of the album though, when at the forefront of it all is the incredible lyrical content, and highly emotionally charged vocal delivery by Cave himself. It is a perfect expression of grief and torment, which might perhaps feel a little odd to want to listen too, but Cave’s incredible talent of expressing himself makes it an important listen, and perhaps one that really needed doing.

It’s hard to fault an album such as this. What Cave has wanted to achieve on Skeleton Tree has been done masterfully, and although this is a listen that can be very emotionally draining for those who simply get lost in Cave’s music, it is one that really shows just how incredible Cave is at translating his thoughts and then pushing out in a creative way. There’s a wonderful and beautiful element of burying everything in metaphors, images and concepts, making it an album that hardly directly addresses its own themes, but still makes them perfectly understandable all the same. It’s uncomfortable, seeing such a vulnerable side to one of music’s strongest writers, but it’s evident this is something Cave felt needed doing.

Fans of Cave’s more recent output will no doubt see the many merits of Skeleton Tree, which at the very least follows on comfortably from Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus and Push The Sky Away (at least in a musical aspect). It’s perhaps difficult to know how and when to approach an album such as this, but no doubt when the time is right, you as a listener will know. Obviously, as with all artistic expressions, this kind of understanding and reverence of Skeleton Tree is hardly universal, and there are perhaps some people who will receive no impact from the album and its content. Though one should hardly ever worry about such things though, and instead just try let themselves get lost in the musical world being conjured up.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Jesus Alone
  • Rings of Saturn
  • Magneto
  • I Need You

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ latest album ‘Skeleton Tree’ is out now.

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The CD Critic’s Top 5 Albums of 2013

5: The Invisible Way – Low

Low’s 10th studio-album released was a delightful treat titled ‘The Invisible Way’. The album showcased in equal measure the band’s own style of slow-alternative rock music, as well as new ideas that hadn’t been attempted by the band before. The result was an album that was quintessentially their own, whilst also sounding new and exciting. Once again, we were offered gorgeous layers of harmonic vocals accompanied by the most delicate of instrumentals. The album offered a wonderful balance of old and new Low, bringing with it a style that was nearly impossible not to fall in love with. Each album by Low offers something that is a little unusual or inaccessible, and ‘The Invisible Way’ is no stranger to such formalities. What makes the album work well is how each track offers brilliantly towards the overall album, giving it the wonderful character that is titled ‘The Invisible Way’. Low even combat their previous criticisms on some of their earlier records, by producing an album that contains in equal measure both uplifting tracks and downbeat tracks, giving the whole overall effort a nice range in styles and presentation. It’s an album that easily allows for repeated listening, making it one of Low’s best albums thus far in their very rewarding discography.

4: Reflektor – Arcade Fire

The hype surrounding Arcade Fire’s fourth studio album effort nearly caused the album to have expectations that the band would have been unable to achieve. Lucky for them, Arcade Fire knew exactly what they were doing, and ended up releasing the incredibly exciting and pumped-up ‘Reflektor’. The album saw Arcade Fire progressing their style once again, adding in new techniques and ideas that helped elevate their already existing strengths. Though the album itself might be classified as being a little too long, it is one that keep offering and offering as it progresses along the two discs of material. Everything seems to work on ‘Relfketor’, including the guest appearances by the likes of David Bowie and such, who don’t retract from Arcade Fire themselves, but instead help add more to the music. Everything Arcade Fire do well, from their song-writing to their lyrics, seem to have been pushed forward and forward until it sounds even better than before. Considering the strength of each individual song, the instrumentals put in place for the tracks and the lyrics that present the well-chosen themes and ideas of the album itself, it seems both the album’s length and hype are all completely justified.

3: Dalmak – Esmerine

On Esmerine’s fourth studio album, (and second album released by Constellation Records), the band offer up one of their most interesting and insightful records titled ‘Dalmak’. The album sees Esmerine combining their own style of music established in Montreal with styles of music originating from Istanbul, creating a record that blurs together genres, styles and techniques to create a very beautiful album experience. Everything Esmerine attempt comes together in fine style to create a gorgeous album experience that is arguably one of the best releases to have come out of Canada this current year (along side other brilliant albums of course). What makes the album work is how Esmerine have attempted to expand what makes their style work, and incorpoate other techniques and ideas to create something new and exciting. It could so easily have gone wrong for Esmerine, but the band manage to make everything work in such a way that it creates a wonderful album experience, where every song flows through brilliantly. There’s an inaccessible element to the album no doubt, though those who enjoy music that is that little bit different and is highly creative will find a lot to enjoy from Esmerine on ‘Dalmak’.

2: The Next Day – David Bowie

The announcement of David Bowie’s first album in over 10 years of inactivity was a huge surprise to everyone earlier this year. The release of ‘The Next Day’ saw Bowie back on top of the music industry, with the album being a phenomenal return to music. There was nothing on ‘The Next Day’ that was out of place, or ill-fitting in any way whatsoever. ‘The Next Day’ was simply another knock-out album by one of music’s most revered song-writers. It helped show that Bowie still has it in him, to produce an album that can easily be enjoyed, and that he can still write great music even in his old age (or older age). ‘The Next Day’ was a punchy and fast pop-rock album that featured brilliant instrumentals that helped support Bowie’s phenomenal lyrics and vocal style. It’s arguable that the album itself isn’t nearly as good as some of Bowie’s most beloved albums in his career (such as 1972’s ‘The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders Fro Mars’ and 1977’s ‘Heroes’). What matters though is how Bowie wasn’t trying to make an album to out-do his previous efforts,but instead jut make another album full of strong material. Bowie easily pulled this off, and now ‘The Next Day’ goes down as one of 2013’s best albums.

1: Push The Sky Away – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ fifteenth studio album ‘Push The Sky Away’ is easily the band’s most subtle masterpiece. The album saw Nick Cave & his bad seeds take a few steps back, and take a more reserved approach to the presentation of the music on ‘Push The Sky Away’, resulting in a highly beautiful and moving album full of haunting instrumentals and incredibly literary lyrics. The album featured a different style of music than what was on previous Nick Cave albums, with the only similarities possible being the band’s 1997 release of ‘The Boatman’s Call’. ‘Push The Sky Away’ featured the most delicate of pianos and violins that helped push the music at a very slow pace. The album works on many levels, with it being one of Nick Cave’s most creative releases thus far, as well as his (arguably) most interesting. Although the tone of the album is downbeat to the point of being inaccessible to an extent, it is still an album that easily warrants repeated listening, to those who are able to cope with such sustained melancholy. Each track contributes brilliantly to the overall scope of the album, being both great stand-alone songs, and great songs as part of a complete album package. For a Nick Cave album, ‘Push The Sky Away’ is a little unexpected, but highly rewarding.

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Live from KCRW – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

After the release of the somewhat minimalist (or at least as minimalist as Nick Cave could possible be) release of ‘Push The Sky Away’, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds offer their latest album release of ‘Live from KCRW’, featuring stripped down versions of a few select tracks from the band’s back catalog, including classics such as ‘The Mercy Seat’ and ‘People Aint’ No Good’. On the record we hear Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds going for a more quieter approach on the tracks, creating a dark yet calm atmosphere that is ever so slightly worrying and haunting, yet highly enjoyable from a musical point of view. There’s a good number of enjoyable moments on ‘Live from KCRW’, with the best being the stripped down versions of some of the more stand-out Nick Cave songs.

There’s a nice selection of tracks present on ‘Live from KCRW’, with only four being from the band’s most recent release of ‘Push The Sky Away’. It’s a wonderful release from the band though, who seem to have updated their back catalog, and brought all their old songs into their ‘Push The Sky Away’ era. For those who were taken by what is arguably one of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ most beautiful records in their career, then ‘Live from KCRW’ will be a welcome addition to the collection. The album itself is essentially what one would expect from a live performance, featuring a good selection of tracks that span across the band’s career, as well as the appreciation of each song by the audience following each track’s ending. It’s the selection of songs, and the actual quality of sound on each recording that makes ‘Live from KCRW’ a very enjoyable record. Particular highlights on the album include Warren Ellis’ violin played over a stripped down version of ‘The Mercy Seat’, which sounds as though it could have been included on ‘Push The Sky Away’, as well as a wonderful guitar solo that closes the live version of ‘Mermaids’.

What might polarize certain fans is how different some of the tracks’ sound on ‘Live from KCRW’. It seems Nick Cave has gone for a smarter option of selecting songs from the previous albums that easily compliment the style of ‘Push The Sky Away’, though that hasn’t stopped him from reworking some of his more well known songs. It’s arguable that certain people might not take to the incredibly minimalist version of ‘The Mercy Seat’, which sounds absolutely nothing like the original recording in any way. The only real error though seems to be the album’s closing track ‘Jack The Ripper’, which doesn’t feature any reworking to compliment the style of the live album. Considering it follows on from the incredibly dark ‘Push The Sky Away’, the sudden urgency of ‘Jack The Ripper’ sounds a little too sudden and jarring for it to fit on the record, despite it being a great version of the song itself.

Although ‘Live from KCRW’ has an element of being just like any other live album, and features that added element of disappointment of listening to music you weren’t a part of (for most people), it still remains a great recording, as follows up as a nice addition after ‘Push The Sky Away’. Nearly everything seems to have been pulled off brilliantly, with each song sounding great on the album (as well as a few sounding better than the original album recordings). This more calmer and less urgent style of Nick Cave might not appease to everyone, but it seems it is offering some of his most rewarding work, resulting in some of the band’s best recordings. Considering the moves the band has made over the course of their career in terms of their sound and style, it will be great to see what they can manage next.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Higgs Boson Blues
  • The Mercy Seat
  • And No More Shall We Part
  • Mermaids

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ latest album ‘Live from KCRW’ is out now. 

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Push The Sky Away – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The highly anticipated 15th studio album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is the follow-up album to their 2008 album ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’, which was a highly enjoyable raucous rock album that grooved its way in and out of upbeat and downbeat tracks. It was a great album that followed up one of their best efforts, their 2004 double-album ‘Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus’, which was also a rock album that had it’s quieter moments. So with these two albums in mind, I find it interesting the direction that Nick Cave has taken with ‘Push The Sky Away’.

‘Push The Sky Away’ could be seen as a departure from the sound that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have established in their long career. But even amongst all the rock albums that Nick Cave has pushed out, there have been moments where everything has been played down, and become quite relaxed in tone. What’s happened on ‘Push The Sky Away’ is that the entire album is downplayed, which could be seen as a first for Nick Cave. Perhaps this is a risky move, as their upbeat rock songs have always been one of their strengths. However, I feel that Nick Cave has actually outdone himself with this album, and produced arguably what is one of his best albums so far in his career.

Yes, the album is quieter, almost ambient at times. However, it just works on this album. Everything that Nick Cave has attempted on this album, he has just done right. The album begins with the gentle track ‘We No Who U R’, and from there it goes from track to track, never once getting too loud, and never once going too quiet. The instrumentals on this album are much more sparse than the previous albums, but all this does is add emphasis on Nick Cave’s lyrics, which I feel are some of the best he has written so far. There is a wonderful poetry in the lyrics, which has always been one of Nick Cave’s greatest strengths as a writer. Even though the instrumentals are more sparse on this album, and have less emphasis than on the previous albums, they are still enjoyable at times. ‘We Real Cool’ features some of Warren Ellis’ best and most gorgeous violin playing since the soundtrack albums he has worked on with Nick Cave. ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ is pushed along by the simplest but highly effective of guitar riffs, which when accompanied with Nick Cave’s lyrics, just makes for one of their best songs in a long while.

I feel that ‘Push The Sky Away’ isn’t the best of Nick Cave’s albums at times. But at the same time, I do also feel that it is one of their strongest. It can appear quite sombre and sad at times, but this just makes me believe that Nick Cave has just effectively managed to write music with some great emotion in it. So overall, I feel that this is ‘one’ of the best albums that Nick Cave has produced. It’s just an album where everything just works on the album. It may not be to everybody’s liking, and perhaps this album might alienate some of the more hardcore of Nick Cave fans. But for myself, I feel that this is a great album, and one that Nick Cave can surely be proud of.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★  5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Mermaids
  • We Real Cool
  • Higgs Boson Blues
  • Push The Sky Away
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