Every week, I’ll share an album or two I’ve been listening to. Feel free to list your favorite recent releases in the comments below.
Tweet your current favorite albums to @SeanMPhipps or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This has been a difficult week to listen to anything but the new Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds album “Push the Sky Away” because it’s just too good. I’ll give my thoughts below, but you should just go ahead and get this album.
Other notable releases this week:
Notable releases next week:
—Justin Hayward, "Spirits of the Western Sky" (of The Moody Blues)
This is the first Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds album since "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" in 2007 and the band's 15th album overall. Unlike the very intense "DLD," this album is much more subdued with lush melodies and simple lyrics. The album was produced by Nick Launay with the aid of Warren Ellis. Ellis did the soundtrack for the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s "The Road," to give you an idea. "Push the Sky Away" is an early contender for Album of the Year.
What the critics think:
Allmusic.com describes the latest album from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds as “jarring and delightfully unsettling.” This is an apt description for much of the NCBS catalogue. UK’s The Independent gives “Push the Sky Away” 5 stars, saying, “They've made their best album, a thoughtful, oceanic work that sucks one in, its hidden currents exerting a subtle but strong undertow.” Entertainment Weekly agrees, calling the album “a multidimensional walkabout through sonic shadows and fog.” The Line of Best Fit says, “Experimental, ambitious and often profoundly strange, 'Push the Sky Away' proves that Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds aren’t ready to slip into by-the-numbers predictability just yet.” NME tell us that “Nick Cave has spent the last 30 years carving a reputation as rock’s great polymath.” They go on to call the album “a masterpiece that merges the experimentation and freedom of their side projects with Cave’s most tender songcraft.” Even those reviewers expecting a more rock 'n’ roll album aren’t too disappointed. Pitchfork gives the album a strong 8.0, saying, “True to the album's desolate, dead-of-night air, his songs are less narratively focused, more stream-of-consciousness haze.” The A.V. Club, as the case with several other reviews, finds it difficult to handle the minimalism. They write: “The problem is, Cave doesn’t know when to let his breath out. Most of the album’s tracks build listlessly to nowhere, and he similarly keeps his usually magnificent croon on a short leash.”
What I think:
“Tree don’t care what the little bird singing. We go down with the dew in the morning light”—the first lyrics from Nick Cave set up a blissful, almost dreamlike, 45-minute journey. Lyrics pertaining to water are themes in nearly all of the songs, as is Cave’s sardonic sense of humor. The first song, “We No Who U R,” opens with a simple keyboard melody that sort of floats above everything. “The trees all stand like pleading hands,” he writes. “Wide Lovely Eyes” sets up the theme of a young girl that carries throughout the album. She’s entering the world and appears in several songs in various stages of age: “With wide lovely eyes, you wave at the sky.” As many critics have pointed out, “Jubilee Street” is a masterpiece and widely considered the best song on the album. It tells the story of a young prostitute named Bee who “... had a history, but no past.” She’s working on Jubilee Street. The protagonist in the song is singing in first person about partaking in the “business” on Jubilee Street. “I was out of place and time, and over the hill, and out of my mind, on Jubilee Street.” What a great song. My favorite line on the album—on an album that has a lot of lines to choose from—is from “Mermaids”: “I believe in God. I believe in mermaids, too. I believe in 72 virgins on a chain (why not, why not).” The final and title track of the album is “Push the Sky Away” with the message being, as Pitchfork says, “When you can't see the sky, you can't see your limits.” This album is a masterpiece and will no doubt be on minds and everybody’s year-end best of lists. Highly recommended.
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