2016 In Review: The albums

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20. Bon Iver22, A Million

– Justin Vernons musik blir underligare och underligare, och svårare och svårare att relatera till och förstå, men den blir aldrig ointressant.

19. And Also the Trees Born Into the Waves

– AATT:s 2000-tals-renässans, som inleddes 2003 med Further From the Truth (och peakade med 2007 års mästerverk (Listen For) The Rag and Bone Man) håller i sig, och visar inga tendenser på att falna.

18. Minor VictoriesMinor Victories

– Det var inte mer än rätt att världen åter skulle få njuta av Rachel Goswells (Slowdive) utmärkta stämma.

17. Cities Last Broadcast The Humming Tapes

– Brusig, stämningsfull dark ambient, ibland med närapå jazziga inslag.

16. Citizen HTransference

– Niklas Hellbergs solodebut. Hellberg är ju annars mer känd från All That Jazz, Peace, Love & Pitbulls och Sällskapet, och som en avgörande viktig kugge i Joakim Thåströms solokarriär och -band. Som Citizen H gör han instrumental, elektronisk dark ambient, och hans fingertoppskänsla för atmosfärer och ljudlandskap är intakt. Jag hoppas på ett fysiskt släpp.

15. Marissa Nadler Strangers

– Förföriskt mörker.

14. 1900Tekno

– Christian Gabel är en av Sveriges bästa ljudmakare.

13. Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression

– Iggy släppte i maj karriärens tredje bästa soloalbum, nedpetat endast av Berlin-plattorna från 1977. Texterna är inspirerade, sången sitter perfekt, och musiken (styrd av Josh Homme och Iggy själv) är intressantare än på decennier.

12. ApocryphosStone Speak

– Kylig, karg dark ambient. Låter som en fika vid en hamn, i januari. Utan något att fika på.

11. Christian KjellvanderA Village: Natural Light

– En promenad längs öde fält, gårdar och åkrar i november.

10. Neurosis Fires Within Fires

– Vackert och skräckinjagande om vartannat. Neurosis har gjort det igen. Metal för folk med för mycket finess och känsla för att lyssna på metal.

9. Ivy BellsSculptures

– Skimrande pop, så melankolisk att man blir förlamad.

8. David BowieBlackstar

– Precis som sin gamle vapendragare Iggy, så släppte också Bowie ett av karriärens bästa album i år. Men till skillnad från Iggy, så fick Bowie inte uppleva vilket genomslag plattan fick. Två dagar efter release gick han bort i levercancer. Vedervärdigt.

7. Nick Cave & the Bad SeedsSkeleton Tree

– Den gamla föreställningen om att konstnären frodas när tillvaron rasar ihop får här vatten på sin kvarn.

6. Maria Taylor In the Next Life

– Jag är så vansinnigt svag för Maria. Hennes röst, hennes melodier, hennes texter och den sorgsenhet som genomsyrar alla hennes skivor. I år släppte hon sin karriärs jämnaste platta, och återförenades med Conor Oberst (om än bara på en låt).

5. Leonard CohenYou Want It Darker

– 2016 var året då ikonerna gjorde comeback, och Cohen tillhör den skaran. 2016 var även året då många ikoner gick bort, och dessvärre tillhör Cohen även detta gäng. Han dog  några veckor efter releasen. Detta är hans bästa platta sedan 1988 års I’m Your Man. Soundet är kargt, texterna fokuserade, rösten stannar tiden. Klassisk Cohen.

4. AllseitsChimäre

– Soundtracket till alltings undergång. Vansinnigt snygg dark ambient. Fantastisk produktion.

3. RomeThe Hyperion Machine

– Jerome Reuter går ifrån temaskivorna, och får trots det ihop sin bästa och jämnaste platta hittills. Mörk, romantisk, atmosfärisk. Lyriken sitter, melodierna är rakt igenom starka. Och Thåström gästar.

2. Frida HyvönenKvinnor och barn

– I höstas gick jag från att inte ha någon relation till Fridas musik (hade hört debutplattan 2005 när den var ny, men det var allt) till att betrakta henne som en av vårt lands intressantaste artister och textförfattare. Allt tack vare denna skivan.

1. Conor Oberst Ruminations

– På Ruminations skalar Conor av sig precis allt, och blottar sig på ett sätt han inte gjort sedan han som 20-åring slog igenom med Bright Eyes. Men då var det (till en början) febrig ångestpop, nu ger han ett betydligt mer samlat intryck, trots att ångesten finns kvar. Men den är tyngre nu. Mer gnagande än skärande. Melodierna är lika bra som någonsin, men texterna är ännu vassare. Djupt personligt, men samtidigt aldrig annat än allmängiltigt.

 

Köp plattorna där plattor säljes. Fotot är taget av mig. Photo by me.

Annonser

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.

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.