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The Down And Out Gospel According To Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Push The Sky Away

23 Feb

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“Well, if I were to use that threadbare metaphor of albums being like children, then Push The Sky Away is the ghost-baby in the incubator and Warren’s loops are its tiny, trembling heart-beat.”

– Nick Cave on his latest record with the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away.

Like a stalker seeking new blood on the boulevard, I am completely obsessed with the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s record, Push the Sky Away. It’s also possible that at the age of 55, Nick Cave’s 15th record (over the course of almost 30 years with the Bad Seeds), is perhaps his best work – a statement that could be considered blasphemous when considering Cave’s massive body of work. But it’s also a word Cave himself might use if you were to ask him if he ever made a bad record. Cave’s combined discography with the Bad Seeds, and the stellar project, Grinderman, have produced some of my favorite albums over the last five+ years.

As always, Cave brings his best love-sick-psychopathic-preacher-storytelling to Away, accompanied by the aforementioned, ever-present heart beat of the record, long-time Cave collaborator, guitarist Warren Ellis. Ellis helps keeps Cave’s derelict musings about hookers with hearts of gold, mermaid snatches, and rebirth, direct and hauntingly intertwined throughout the record. According to Cave, Away was inspired by his recent exploration of, all things, the Internet. In that recent interview with The Sun, Cave said that the only things he ever learned were while he was in school, while his twin boys  (now 12), “have much more interesting minds [than he did at the same age] because of the Internet.”

Away was conceived in a remarkably short period of time, only three weeks. From beginning to end, the record seems like a soundtrack to an out-of-body experience. A dream about people and places you’ve never met or been to, but can see clearly through Cave’s lyrical tapestry, whether you want to or not. Perhaps the best example of this musical imagery is the soaring track “Jubilee Street”. The song weaves a story about a man who falls in love with a prostitute. The song builds and rises with slow, sexually-charged intention. A musical style that, over the years, Cave has developed to unnerving perfection. Push the Sky Away is an indulgent treat, expertly crafted with love and malice. A “must listen” from start to finish in order to truly appreciate it’s darkly beautiful message.

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Last Gasp: Mark Lanegan’s 2012 Christmas Record ‘Dark Mark Does Christmas’

2 Jan

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Yes, I know it’s a bit late for a Christmas post, but as big of a fan of ex-Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan as I am, I was completely unaware that Lanegan had put out a Christmas record last year. Since leaving the Screaming Trees, Lanegan has been prolific when it comes to expanding his catalog, both as a solo artist, as well as his various collaborations with artists like Queens of the Stone Age, Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs), and Isobel Campbell (Belle and Sebastian). He’s also been tapped to provide the vocals on the highly anticipated Mad Season record, the recently reformed Seattle grunge super group formerly fronted by Layne Stayley of Alice In Chains. And, of all the great music that came out in 2012, Lanegan’s brilliant ‘Blues Funeral‘, was by far my favorite record.

Unfortunately, Dark Mark is only available at Lanegan’s live shows. But you’re not quite ready to let go of your Christmas whiskey or spirit (like me), you can listen to all six tracks from ‘Dark Mark Does Christmas 2012’, here.

Peter Bradley Adams: If you didn’t go, you missed out

18 Dec

As of three months ago, Peter Bradley Adams is a proud homeowner. Oh, and he once bailed himself out of jail in Calhoun County, Georgia.

Saturday night, a mere $12 got me into Schuba’s Tavern to see Peter Bradley Adams, a melancholy indie/folk singer and songwriter who occasionally borders on country. I’ve been a fan for a while, so much of the show was familiar – but it was a familiar that was better than anything I expected. In person, Adams plays with an intensity that draws you in before you realize what’s happening.

Whether strumming old favorites, new songs, or using a guitar to play things written for piano, Adams put on a show that was at times humorous (he was unapologetic if he forgot the words to his own songs) and that sometimes left me aching with nostalgia for…something. And with so many songwriters obsessed with love and only love, it was refreshing to discover Adams’ songs are obsessed with something else: weather.

Opening for Adams was Chicago-native Haroula Rose. Awkwardly endearing, her lyrics reflected interests all over the map (“I have this whole sociological theory about why people in Los Angeles get plastic surgery,”) although her songs sometimes blurred together in the similarity of melodies.

The highlight of the show, however, was the two songs Adams and Rose sang together. Their voices blended so well it sent chills down my spine.

If you missed Adams while he was in Chicago, just make sure you don’t repeat the mistake next time.

Oh, and can I just say what a great venue Schuba’s makes? The back room, with its wooden paneling, dark lighting, and isolation from the bar gave a true tavern feel that made it easy to connect with the performers on stage.

(…right, the Calhoun County thing. After being pulled over for a broken taillight, Adams got hauled off to jail when it turned out his license was suspended. He convinced the clerk to drive him to a motel and “stayed there for two days until I convinced an ex-girlfriend to drive down from Nashville and pick me up.” In court, the judge asked him what he did for a living.

“I write songs in Nashville,” Adams said.

The judge looked him straight in the eye and said, “I used to write songs in Nashville.”

All charges were dropped.)

See him at: No concert dates currently posted, but expect a new CD around late January.

Dave Baxter’s “Let it Go,” free EP download

15 Dec

Recently, I’ve been kind of (ok, totally) obsessed with Dave Baxter’s single, “Whispers.” One of those rainy-day, stays-with-you-for-hours songs, the video also tells a great story while reminding you just how gorgeous New Zealand is.

Luckily for my obsession, Dave Baxter is offering his EP, “Let it Go,” as a free download this Sunday at 4 p.m New Zealand time (that’d be 9 p.m. for you Central Time folk).

Be sure to clear your schedule – and, in the meantime, check out “Whispers” below.

EDIT (16 Dec, 9:30 p.m.): …guys, the download was worth it.

Blueneck presents their “Epilogue”

7 Dec

“Without a doubt it’s a “headphones” album,” Blueneck writes of their newest work, “Epilogue.” It’s true, but don’t be surprised when the first few notes throw you out of your chair. The group’s fourth album, “Epilogue” features haunting, melancholy songs that pack a powerful emotional punch. At times reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, at others Explosions in the Sky, Blueneck still manages to create a work with an overall feel completely their own.

The album, which is all-instrumental, is full of ups and downs, drawing the listener in with high-intensity surges of sound followed by quieter, reflective sections. It’s a contrast that makes for thirty minutes of intense emotion. This is not a CD to play in the background. This is a CD you sit down and listen to.

On their blog (a great read in and of itself), Blueneck explained they were trying new concepts, almost an experiment, in the making of “Epilogue.” That’s all too evident at times, with an overabundance of ideas that leaves the album struggling to achieve a unified feel. After listening from beginning to end, I was left strangely dissatisfied, as if the album had never quite figured out how to reach a climax.

Individually, however, each song shines. Those experiments that made that made it difficult to achieve one theme result in unique and complex tracks, giving the ear something new to latch on to with each listen. “Apogee” builds a melody around a single piano note repeated over and over for a lifting-and-falling feeling, while “Carina” concludes the album with an echoing quietness.

“Epilogue,” while leaving something to be desired, is still a great listen in its own right – and what is left most desired, perhaps, is for Bluneck to speed up the release of their fifth album.

See them live: Sadly, Blueneck won’t be touring until the release of their fourth album (expect late 2013), but their website does offer free Christmas music.

Epilogue

Released 19 October 2012

  1. Symbiosis – Part 2
  2. (Eta Carinae)
  3. Colonization – Incident 2
  4. Apogee
  5. Symbiosis – Part 1
  6. Suppression
  7. Colonization – Incident 1
  8. Carina