Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – ‘Ghosteen’

Sounds like … a poetic, chamber-orchestrated shelter for the grief.

It still is impossible to approach a new Nick Cave-record without thinking about the death of his son Arthur back in 2015. Although Cave has gone through a lot before and is one of the outstanding figures of rock music these days, one is bewildered by the question if and how even someone like him can endure something like that. Now, with a new record called Ghosteen as a background, it is getting obvious that of course, Cave keeps on dealing with it in a professional, artistic way. There’s been little to none promotion ahead of it, I kept myself awake just to tune in for the Youtube-world premiere Thursday evening and still, the title alone already gave it all away: Ghosteen is another chapter of the artis’s grief. At the same time, it is probably the most unlikely-sounding record The Bad Seeds ever recorded.

2016’s Skeleton Tree already was widely interpreted for being under the spell of Arthur’s death. Although the record was already written for most parts when it happened, there was no denial that it matched the circumstances. Ghosteen is an album of similar sadness but not as claustrophobic-dark as Skeleton Tree was; where the ladder, in all its devastating sparseness, musically expressed the pure horror of loss, Ghosteen feels more like a celebration of what’s lost. Throughout it’s an outlet for Cave‘s words and the specific world he crafts with them. The diabolic violin of Warren Ellis barely is a singular factor because the album as a whole resembles more of a chamber orchestra that Tindersticks would gather. The most astonishing thing might be Cave’s voice: „I’m speaking of love now“, he sings at one point and there’s a lot of unusual warmth in his voice all over the 70 minutes that mostly belong to him. Cave barely ever embraced the falsetto as persistent as on this record. With that voice, as variable as seldomly presented in his career, Cave digs through the pain. „We crawl into our wounds; I’m nearly all the way to Malibu“ he proclaims in Hollywood and it leaves you with as little forgivenessnes as Nick Cave probably found within himself in the past years. The reoccuring theme of „the past with its fierce undertow“ colours Ghosteen with a certain meta-tone. Nick Cave is transcending musicianship these days. He always has been. But the way he deals with fame, image, public sense of entitlement and the ever-complicated balance between personal and artistic life right now is just outstanding. When playing with the Seeds, he’s s still far enough out there to be the grand rock’n’roll-projection screen. A dark maestro, directing albums. At the same time he developed a perfect way to communicate and connect with his fans on a very direct and honest level. Ghosteen finds him in the middle of all that. It is crushingly vulnerable, perfectly arranged, yet at no point a rock pose. (Henning Grabow)

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Angel Olsen – ‘All Mirrors’

Sounds like … a heart-broken Edith Piaf jamming with Scott Matthew in Nashville.

When Angel Olsen started to re-invent and comment herself as an artist on her last record My Woman, a broader audience luckily started to realise that there is so much more to this singer than just some sad folk tunes. Three years forward and Angel Olsen should be a star by now. But of course there never is a linear development to stardom – at least not when it comes to true art. All Mirrors though is another big step into that direction – and simultaneously another proof of how clever, careful and sustainable Olsen crafted her career. For All Mirrors, the artist returned to the masterful production of John Congleton, who already gave Burn Your Fire For No Witness just the right amount of edges it needed. He accomplished to wrap arrangements for a full band, a 14-headed orchestra, and, at the very center, Angel Olsen at her most vulnerable into a powerful but also fragile package. The result is hauntingly beautiful.

On All Mirrors, the quiet, almost physical loneliness is interwoven with moments of emotional excess. This balance is held within tracks (Lark), but also over the course of the eleven songs. Withdrawn pieces like Tonight or Too Easy stand aside more extroverted, straight-forward ones (Summer, All Mirrors). Sound-wise, the whole record establishes a certain old-fashioned vibe. Be it the farewell-waltz of Chance or many little moments that resemble golden Chanson-times in tormented Scott Matthews-style. All the variety comes in a very Angel Olsen-way: Dark, honest, not without a wry humour. There’s a depth to the many different shades that increases the impact of the album’s emotionality. You couldn’t possibly handle an album full of Lark. But thanks to Olsen‘s sense for the right dramatic build-ups, some moments and lyrics will haunt you for days. Sometimes they are just crooned (“knowing that you love someone doesn’t mean you ever were in love”), sometimes cried out loud (“I’m just living in my head/I never lost anyone“), sometimes barely sighed (“I needed more than love from you”). Angel Olsen‘s not just singing these songs. You can sense that All Mirrors is a very personal affair. But the way that Olsen masterfully crafted it elevates this album: It’s a journey through heartbreak, the constant reflection that it fuels and the many ways how, in the end, it changes and not changes you – „all of my past repeating“. The most beautiful thing about this maginificent record is, though: It still feels hopeful in every second. Just like Olsen sings: „Losing…beauty“ but „at least at times it knew me“(Henning Grabow)

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DIIV – ‘Deceiver’

Sounds like … sobriety meets shoegaze.

It is not a rare case that you hear about musicians going to rehab, quitting drugs and centralizing their next work on that matter. In DIIV‘s case, it seems like we’ve already had that subject a while ago – Is The Is Are, anyone? But this time around, you can sense the soberness not only in the press texts and interviews, but in the music itself. Deceiver is the first record not produced by the band, but by Sonny DiPerri who previously produced for My Bloody Valentine or Trent Rezor . Thankfully, this gives a more clearer and focused environment to the whole record.

DIIV ditched their flufiness and indie charm for a darker, more complex vibe. Deceiver has a wider, almost monumental sound whose guitar riffs will remind you of MBV’s Loveless not just once. There’s even a message from bandleader Cole Smith towards the climate movement:  ‘Destroy those who destroy the earth’ he sings on Blankenship. Otherwise, the lyrics are focusing pretty much on his way to sobriety with the vocals being more hazy and vague than on their previous records. There’s no proper ‘hits’ or standout songs on this album, but don’t let that hinder you from discovering Deceiver. DIIV deliver a fulfilling sonic journey through addiction, recovery and sobriety. (Louisa Zimmer)

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Swim Deep – ‘Emerald Classics’

Sounds like … a sparkling trip back to early 90s Britpop ecstasy.

Sometimes you can’t help but wonder ‘what if…’. What if Swim Deep would have been around in 1992? What if this world had a different understanding of pop music? And what if The 1975 never happened? Would the band around frontman Austin Williams be actually as big as their colleagues and former touring partners? It’s worth to think about that because despite really good and catchy indie-pop anthems on their first two records the band still feels like a hidden underground treasure that never got as big as their music implied. Their third full-length, the first one since 2015, is an impressive proof of that. Emerald Classics feels like a testament of shimmering retro pop glow, placed between the groove of late 80s Manchester Rave and early 90s power Britpop á la Pulp. It’s a record that bursts of ideas, positivity and big gestures. To Feel Good, the opening track, is a fine example here. Along with Margate’s Social Singing choir Swim Deep mix Rozalla’s iconic Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good) with their open love for cinematic dream pop and it really helps to set the mood straight for this record.

The opener is followed by the 80s-infected dance pop smasher 0121 Desire and the shimmering Bruised which floats on sugar coated clouds of sweetness, thanks to those haunting synth strings that appear towards the end. From The Stone Roses to New Order Swim Deep understand the formula of those times and I don’t know about you but for a 90s kids like me this sound really triggers something. World I Share with its house piano/ rave flair is another fine example here. It requires quite a talent to recreate such a specific sound period like these guys do. And yes, it invites you to constantly seek for pop musical references but you can also simply enjoy these uplifting little pop treasures. Towards the closing Never Stop Pinching Yourself the band isn’t even afraid to go from Primal Scream to Beatles territory within a few minutes. Swim Deep deliver nostalgic daydream material and pop hits that might have been massive in a time when other qualities mattered in this field. Today, they are the alternative for those who love pop music and seek for something different yet also relatable. What if this pays out in the end? They surely deserve it. (Norman Fleischer)

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WIVES – ‘So Removed’

Sounds like … a walk on the tightrope between grungy punk vibes and gritty garage rock. 

Growing out of the smudgy streets of New York is yet another punk-tinged underground band – I know what you are thinking. But these are not the basic feigned slacker hipsters that roam the music scene. The WIVES are just a little more than that. The four-piece found together through playing endless live gigs and that energy reflects onto their debut album So Removed, as well. With drawly vocals, cranked up guitars and a jittery punk vibe that seems to fit our era just too well, they combine the right elements to an eleven-track strong ride through their New York.

Between noisy dissonance and hints of melodic riffs, they walk on the tightrope between grungy punk and gritty rock vibes. The 20 Teens conveys their ambiguous energy in almost sing-along choruses over dirty guitar grooves. It is one of the less angsty and dark-wave tracks off the record, while tracks like Even The Dead fully indulge in nocturnal vibes. Channeling the post-punk angst, many previous bands have found in the streets of New York, Jay Beach’s laconic vocals and the numbed pumping beat sculpt the image of stoic rage. The five-minute gem follows the short and crunchy Whatevr, which transports nervous feelings of daily anxiety. Popping up all around, are more and more punk-tinged noise bands who let their frustration about the state society and the music industry are in, flow through crunched amps. Workin’ bears that tension gracefully. The single works its way through gloomy distorted arrangements building up to a heavy crescendo. Rounded up with The Future Is A Drag, the WIVES let a rather dystopian vision of the future shine through. The drum-heavy experimental single is a dizzying ballad of fuzzy guitars and Beach singing a little less drawly. With melodic vocals he sings ‘We blew it a hundred times’ making it a pessimistic ode to the future. Yet at least one thing is for sure: the WIVES did not blow it with this LP. (Liv Toerkell)

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