Sällskapet #3 – update

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There’s been some updates regarding Sällskapets forthcoming third album (slated for release sometime next year). According to an interview with Niklas Hellberg and Pelle Ossler conducted by NWT, it is implied that the band’s singer Joakim Thåström is no longer with the group. The singing on the album is instead done by German artist Andrea Schroeder. No official announcement has been made, and nowhere does it say why Thåström has left.

This is of course shocking and worrying, but I’ll keep soldiering on and I will post further updates regarding Sällskapet as soon as I hear anything. And do listen to Andrea on, say, Spotify. I have been doing that today and she is quite good. Quite good indeed.

 

Photo by Carl Edblom, NWT. Retrieved from 2479426.jpg

New Discoveries: True Moon

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As an avid and longterm post-punk fan it’s always a great pleasure to stumble upon a new discovery within that genre. And today it has happened again.

True Moon is fronted by Karolina Engdahl, whom we know from the Malmö based punk/alternative band Vånna Inget, and they have just released their first single. It’s called Voodoo and it’s great. It’s a classic post-punk tune; chilly, shrouded in black and grey, dragged in the urban mire, with guitars that bring to mind Barney Sumner (Joy Division) and Reg Smithies (The Chameleons), yet with a strong and melodic chorus that shows off their pop sensibilities. Quite impressive. And that riff! Mein Gott (Goth?)!

In a recent interview with the formidable Hymn, Karolina reveals that the song is a fight song for all her sisters, and with a chorus that goes “I am a demon, I am a mother, I  am  a warrior (and is preceded by the short, simple, yet terribly effective line “I am an angry woman/I am a stronger woman”) I can see why, and I applaud it. Much needed.

I look forward to hearing more from this brilliant band and to seeing them live. Meanwhile I’ll happily keep playing Voodoo. Listen to it on iTunes or Spotify

Picture retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/366898380156490/photos/a.468766216636372.1073741829.366898380156490/576443589201967/?type=3&theater

Another list: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ten of their best

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There’s been a lot of Nick Cave these last few weeks. But it can’t be helped – less than a week ago he released what might be the greatest album of his career. I can’t get it out of my mind, nor him. So what follows is me trying to gather my thoughts around Nick Cave and the songs that mean the most to me.

10. Knockin’ On Joe

Year: 1985

Album: The Firstborn is Dead

– In a prison in the deep South, in a dark cell buried deep down in Death Row, there’s a convict and he’s singing the blues. He’s about to be executed, but that’s not what’s bringing him down. Nor is it his loss of freedom. Oh, no. He’s tough. He’s stoic about the whole thing. He tells the bitter jailor to lay his burden on him, he defiantly tells the warden that his fists can’t hurt him anymore, not even the preacher with his words of hell and brimstone scares him now. No, what’s making him howl his blues into the night is the loss of his woman. Nancy. These chains of sorrow, they are heavy, it is true And these locks cannot be broken, no, not with one thousand keys. He tells the preacher not to bring Nancy around. He doesn’t want her to see him like this. Tell Nancy not to come And let me die in the memory of her arms.

This is Nick Cave sort of inventing the Southern Gothic genre. Captivating stuff indeed.

9. Jesus Alone

Year: 2016

Album: Skeleton Tree

– It’s a matter of timing. Further on up the road more songs from Skeleton Tree will pop up on lists like this, and possibly higher up. I wrote a piece about this song a week ago. Check it out.

8. Slowly Goes the Night

Year: 1988

Album: Tender Prey

– Could very well deserve a higher position, but let’s not bicker.

This is another song about loss. Here the protagonist is really down in the dumps. Way, way down. He treated his girl a bit so-so and is now sitting crying into his beer for ten lonely days, ten lonely nights. He touches the spot in the bed where she slept, treating it like a monument, he hangs his head in shame blaming himself for not seeing the warning signs – all while the moon outside is being flayed and both night and day gets darker and darker.

He writhes in bed, tosses, sweats, yet still comes to the conclusion that it’s probably going to turn out alright in the end, for both of them – even though he is the one who’s going to do all the crying first.

7. Brompton Oratory

Year: 1997

Album: The Boatman’s Call

– Here the downtrodden protagonist hangs out at a church (guess which one!). His heart is heavy – so heavy, in fact, that he contemplates the idea of being made of stone, just like the statues of the Apostles at the church, so that he wouldn’t have to endure the impossible beauty of the one who got away.

He then exits the church, sits exhausted on the steps outside and conclude that neither God nor Satan could come close in bringing him down to his knees the way that she has done.

Gorgeous stuff from a gorgeous album.

6. Mercy

Year: 1988

Album: Tender Prey

– The leader has lost his followers. He is thrown into a dungeon, fed only bread and water, and with nothing but his faith as his weapon of protection. His life is under constant threat – so constant, even, that it actually bores him. Another example of the stoic Nick Cave character, standing with both fists clenched while life is falling apart all around him. Yet…he cries for mercy.

5. Stranger than Kindness

Year: 1986

Album: Your Funeral…My Trial

– In Nick Cave’s songs it is not unusual that kindness is a rare trait. You’re more likely to find godlessness, death, mayhem, rape, loneliness and heartbreak than pure kindness. Here he acknowledge the apartness of kindness, and at the same time declaring himself a stranger to kindness.

The lyrics are, to me, a fractured, yet beautiful, mess. There’s no clear narrative. Disturbing images following disturbing images.

A strange lit stair
And find a rope hanging there
Stranger than kindness

Keys rain like heaven’s hair
There is no home there is no bread
We sit at the gate and scratch
The gaunt fruit of passion
Dies in the light
Stranger than kindness

You hold me so carelessly close
Tell me I’m dirty
Stranger than kindness

4. Your Funeral…My Trial

Year: 1986

Album: Your Funeral…My Trial

– A crooked man walking a crooked mile, while his crooked conscience plays tricks on him. And night is engulfing him, taking over everything, becoming a threat, a fang. His woman is a crooked bitch, a monger of pain, but he can’t shake her. He has to face her and whatever consequence it may entail.

This is Nick at perhaps his most haunted.

3. Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?

Year: 1997

Album: The Boatman’s Call

– Nick has written many songs about lost love and love falling apart, and many of them can be found on Boatman’s Call, but none of them hits harder than this one.

This song depicts a man thinking back on what he had, what he lost and how it all came to be. He remembers the good times; intimate moments in hotel rooms when their love dissolved time. But mostly he remembers the not-so-great moments. Razor sharp images culled straight from dreary everyday life: having tea and biscuits on a park bench, with nothing to talk about, and with the Serenity Prayer ringing in his head (which says it all, really). Then there’s the scene where they aimlessly and listlessly goes round and around a duckpond. Going nowhere.

Gloomily and mournfully we go round again
And one more doomed time and without much hope
Going round and around to nowhere

He later on remembers a time when there still was hope and he wants to relive it. Back then no one knew the way things would turn out. Back then this was inconceivable.  But…all that you love you lose. Even the things you thought you never ever could lose. Things that you were supposed to carry with you till the day that your final breath leaves your body. And when you’ve lost the most important thing in your life you’ll most likely spend the rest of your days going round and around to nowhere.

2. A Box for Black Paul

Year: 1984

Album: From Her to Eternity

– One of the greatest songs about death I have ever heard. Death, betrayal in death, distrust, getting no redress. The complete opposite of…

1. Push the Sky Away

Year: 2013

Album: Push the Sky Away

– …this one. This is Nick at his most comforting. This song is pure comfort. Love. This song tells us that it’s alright to feel whatever it is that we might feel, that we’re right, and at the same time that we shouldn’t give in to whatever negative element that is trying to get a hold of us.

The music is atmospheric. It’s melancholic without being maudlin. It shimmers and floats without friction and is a perfect match for the lyrics.This is the song I can put on at any given moment without it losing any of its power. It gets you right down to your soul. 

 

Buy Nick’s albums from Amazon, Nick’s webpage Ginza, or listen to them on Spotify

The photo is retrieved from Stereogum.

9/11 – The 15 Greatest Songs from New York: a Tribute

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Musically one of the greatest and most influential cities in the world, giving birth to punk, hiphop, jazz and numerous subgenres to all of these styles and more. And to mark the 15th anniversary of the fall of The Twin Towers, here is my rundown of the 15 greatest songs to come out of NYC.

15. Richard Hell and the Voidoids – Blank Generation 

– One of the originators of punk. This song is the blueprint.

14. Nas – One Mic

– The greatest living MC to come from NY.

13. Swans – Sex, God Sex

– Took punk, slowed it down considerably, made it ten tons heavier, painted it pitch black. The result? Horrifying and gorgeous.

12. Television – Torn Curtain

– Post-punk long before punk was even dead. True innovators.

11. Johnny Thunders – So Alone

– One of the coolest rock stars of all time. He oozed NYC.

10. New York Dolls – Subway Train

– Perhaps the most important band in terms of their influence on punk. This is existential angst set in a dimly lit and desolate subway car.

9. Patti Smith – Free Money

– One of the greatest rock poets to come out of NYC. Another one of the innovators.

8.  The Velvet Underground – The Black Angel’s Death Song

– The Godfathers. Thanks to the Velvets and Lou we have punk, goth, post-punk, industrial, indie pop… This song lives up to its title. It’s a masterpiece.

7. Interpol – C’mere

– For a while in the 00’s these guys carried the NYC torch and they did it perfectly. This one of their most touching songs.

6. The Notorious B.I.G. – Kick in the Door

– The King of New York. The Greatest MC of all time. The second musical idol of my life. On this track he sets the record straight as to who really is the King of New York.

5. Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat

– Okey, he’s not from New York. Hell, he’s not even American. But this song IS New York, just as much as the Hudson or Bagels.

4. Suicide – Frankie Teardrop

– What I said about The Velvets could easily and just as rightly be said about Suicide. Their influence can not be over stated. Not ever.

3. Ramones – 7/11

– These guys saved rock n roll from the dreary likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Genesis and whatnot. They ushered in a new era. This song is one of their least known, but it’s stunning all the same.

2. Bruce Springsteen – Jungleland

– Bruce is from the other side of the river, but this song is not. This song lives and breathes NYC street life.

1. Frank Sinatra – It’s a Lonesome Old Town

– Also from the other side of the river, but you don’t get more New York than this. This is wet streets, lonely walks lit up only by neon signs, steam rising from the sewer and a heart too heavy to bear. Essential. A masterpiece.

Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

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What do you do when something vital is mercilessly torn from you? How are you supposed to act when the universe rips your heart out of your chest and replaces it with…nothing in particular? How do you deal with complete and utter loss? You can shut down. Retreat back inside. Paint the windows black. Destroy your phone. Sew your mouth shut and cut both ears off. Build a massive wall. Communicate only with your memories and your ghosts. Or…you can clench your fists and stoically return to whatever it is that you do best..  That is what Nick Cave has done. He went back to working on the album he was halfway through when tragedy struck last July.

I was an electrical storm on the bathroom floor, clutching the bowl

Oh, the urge to kill somebody was basically overwhelming
I had such hard blues down there in the supermarket queues

No one would ever have blamed him if he had retired after this. How do you go on? Few would.

And if you want to bleed, just bleed

And if you want to leave, don’t breathe

But he didn’t retire. He didn’t shut down. He elevated. And then came out of the studio with what could very well be the best album of his career.

It’s an album immersed in grief. The lyrics are scenarios stacked on top of each other, forming wholes, both logical and illogical, abstract, yet perfectly lucid. There’s no real narrative, just like Nick says in the accompanying film. The scenarios speak of loss and of existence crumbling under your feet, while at the same time remaining the same.

The song, the song it spins, the song, it spins, it spins no more
The phone, it rings, it rings and you won’t stay

I knew the world it would stop spinning now since you’ve been gone
I used to think that when you died you kind of wandered the world
In a slumber til your crumbled were absorbed into the earth
Well, I don’t think that any more

I am sawn in half and all the stars are splashed across the ceiling

The music perfectly matches the lyrics. The synths, the guitars, the strings, the percussion and those strange rhythms that sometimes pop up form atmospheric soundscapes and melodies that perfectly encapsulates Nick’s fractured poetry.

Then there’s the penultimate track Distant Sky, a duet with Danish soprano Else Torp. A song so angelic and classical in its sound that it feels like it’s always been around. Sprung from earth or washed down from the sky in some heavy ancient rain. This is catharsis.

Let us go now, my darling companion
Set out for the distant skies
See the sun, see it rising
See it rising, rising in your eyes

The last track (which is also the title track) speaks of acceptance. Your heart may be torn out of your chest and you may never stop bleeding, but it’s alright. It has to be alright. Otherwise everything stops.

And I called out, I called out
Right across the sea
I called out, I called out
That nothing is for free

And it’s alright now
And it’s alright now
And it’s alright now

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds has made the album of the year. It’s going to be excrutiatingly tough for those who want to challenge them for the title.

Buy Skeleton Tree from CDON, Amazon or Nick’s webpage, or listen to it on Spotify.

Picture retrieved from http://www.nickcave.com I claim no ownership whatsoever.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Jesus Alone

This week’s big musical event is arguably the release of the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album Skeleton Tree out on September 9 and its accompanying film One More Time With Feeling released the day before as a one-night-only event on select theaters around the world.

Less than a week ago a single was released called Jesus Alone. A brooding track, filled with a feverish, buzzing guitar, pensive piano and a string section.

“You believe in god, but you get no special dispensation for this belief now”, Nick sings, and continues “You’re a distant memory in the mind of your creator, don’t you see?”, sounding like someone whose God, what- or whoever that may be, has abandoned him. And following the death of Nick’s teenage son last year, these feelings and ideas are very easy to understand. He touches upon this in the trailer released in August.  “What happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic that you just change?”, he asks. “You change from the known person to an unknown person. So that when you look at yourself in the mirror, you recognize the person that you were, but the person inside the skin is a different person.”

To me, this is easily one of the very best songs of the year, and it bodes extremely well for the album.

This week’s rediscovery: The Radio Dept. – This Past Week

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Swedish dream pop band The Radio Dept. followed their atmospheric and wistful, yet still rough-around-the edges, debut album Lesser Matters from 2003 with an EP in 2005 called This Past Week.

Here they adopted softer corners and in the process slipped further into that dream state they’ve since made their own. They had ditched the “upbeat” (for desperate lack of a better term) pop and shoegaze of Why Won’t You Talk About It?, Where Damage Isn’t Already Done, 1995 and so on off their debut album and replaced it with shimmering songs with yearning melodies, conjuring up images of slate grey skies, a gentle drizzle falling on desolate sea shores and pinkish twilights all at the same time.

Irrespective of what the lyrics actually mean to singer Johan Duncanson who wrote them, to me all of the songs perfectly encapsulate feelings of love, loss, longing and regret. From the opening/title track‘s rather simple, yet earnest wish to belong to someone, to something (I want to be a good friend, I want to find my best friend, someone who wants to stay, someone who doesn’t go away), to the closing track Let Me Have This and its cautious celebration almost of having exactly that, yet being perfectly aware that it can be taken away at any given moment (This could be the final song, ’cause I think I have it all. Only time can tell, but take me now). This is The Radio Dept. to me; love and loss in equal measures.

You can get most Radio Dept. releases from CDON, but this particular EP is out of print. However, you can get it second hand from Discogs and listen to it on Spotify.

Picture is taken from Labrador Records. I claim no ownership whatsoever.