By Kyle England
Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Push the Sky Away” 3 out of 5 stars
forming his band in 1983, Nick Cave has always had one constant: Mick Harvey.
Other Bad Seeds members came and went, but Mick Harvey was always there as his
guitarist and right-hand man – and had been even when Cave and Harvey were
starting out way back in 1976 in the now legendary and highly influential post-punk/goth-rock
band The Birthday Party. But in 2009, suddenly and seemingly without warning,
Harvey, citing the ever popular “personal and professional reasons,” decided to
leave The Bad Seeds, leaving Cave as now its only original founding member.
Cave’s newest album “Push the Sky Away” (his first Bad Seeds release in nearly five
years and the 15th Bad Seeds album overall) almost feels like a funeral of
sorts to Mick Harvey’s departure. Gone are the heavy guitar arrangements that
have littered past later-era Bad Seeds records (such as the stone-cold
brilliance of 2008’s “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”) and, in its place, are stark
arrangements that almost feel like the film scores he’s worked on with current
Bad Seeds member Warren Ellis over the years. Ellis, along with Cave and other
Bad Seeds members Martyn P. Casey and Jim Sclavunos, have gotten the bluesy-punk
blasts out of their system with their side project Grinderman over the past few
years, so “Push the Sky Away” feels like a very stark contrast in its wake.
single “We No Who U R” with its sparse keyboards feels like something that
would have come off of Cave’s late ‘90s album “The Boatman’s Call,” and
“Water’s Edge” is more spoken word poetry than song, with Cave sermonizing over
Casey’s jagged bass lines and Ellis’ haunting violin bits scattered throughout.
The Sky Away” is a good album to be sure, but after the out and out brilliance
of the last couple of Bad Seeds and Grinderman records, it almost feels like a
little bit of a deflated disappointment at times. Older diehards that have
followed Cave for decades will surely love this new album, but younger fans
that have only known Cave for his Grinderman records over the last few years
might find “Push the Sky Away” just a tad tedious.
Lidell – “Jamie Lidell” 3.5 out of 5 stars
electronic/neo-soul artist Jamie Lidell wears his influences on his sleeve like
a badge of honor. On his 2008 album “Jim,” it sounded like he was paying
tribute to ‘70s-era Stevie Wonder, and on his new self-titled album, it feels
like Lidell is paying tribute to all of his ‘80s influences.
track “I’m Selfish” feels like it could have come right off of Prince’s 1999
album, and “Big Love” feels heavily indebted to Michael Jackson’s “Off The
Wall.” “Do Yourself A Faver” with its bouncy bass feels like an homage to
Bootsy Collins, those cheeky synths on “You Naked” and “Blaming Something” feel
inspired by a band like Cameo or very early Bobby Brown records, and I’ve never
wanted to go back and revisit my old Rick James records more than when I heard
“You Know My Name” for the first time.
Lidell isn’t reinventing the wheel with his self-titled album, but it is a very
amusing and entertaining album from someone you wouldn’t guess is British – or
a white guy. If you’re a fan of Justin Timberlake or even Maroon 5 and are
looking for something of that ilk to cure your winter blues, then Jamie
Lidell’s newest album is recommended.
Dawn – “How I Knew Her” 4 out of 5 stars
of you might know Nataly Dawn for her work in her band Pomplamoose, which
shares similarities to other indie-pop guy/girl bands such as Mates of State,
Matt & Kim and The Bird & The Bee, but most people will remember her
from those adorable Christmas Hyundai commercials a few years back where she
was singing “Deck The Halls” and “Jingle Bells” and looking cute as a button. “How
I Knew Her” is her debut solo album, and it is so good that hopefully it will
do well so she won’t have to do any more car commercials to pay the bills.
by a Kickstarter campaign, only taking her three days to raise enough money to
get it made, “How I Knew Her” showcases Dawn’s talents for melody and knack for
clever arrangements. With hired guns such as David Piltch on bass (K.D. Lang,
Bonnie Raitt) and Matt Chamberlain on drums (Fiona Apple, Tori Amos), “How I
Knew Her” will definitely remind listeners of some of the quirkiness of artists
such as Regina Spektor and the wide appeal of a Sara Bareilles or Ingrid
Michaelson. It’s her likeness of an artist such as Feist, though, that I think
will keep audiences intrigued. The title track with its slide guitar, huge
sweeping strings and the haunting beauty of Dawn’s voice will make fast lovers
out of Feist’s fans. But then there are tracks such as “Back to the Barracks,”
where just an acoustic guitar and Dawn’s powerful voice are more than enough to
keep listeners captivated.
artist on the rise and one to watch out for to be sure, Nataly Dawn and her “How
I Knew Her” album deserve your attention.
Falls – “Waiting for Something to Happen” 4.5 out of 5 stars
Falls members Roxanne Clifford and Patrick Doyle made a splash with their 2011
debut, paying tribute with their music to all of their influences such as My
Bloody Valentine, The Pastels, The Wedding Present and Teenage Fanclub. But
it’s their follow-up, “Waiting for Something to Happen,” that’s got me
their penchant for harmonies to a whole other level, Clifford and Doyle have
smoothed out the rough edges from their self-titled debut and made something so
shiny and polished that it may antagonize some of their fan base, but it’s
going to get them a whole bunch more new fans in the process. Taking cues from
some of the best twee-pop ever crafted, “Waiting for Something to Happen”
sounds like the best elements of bands long forgotten, such as Talulah Gosh,
The Field Mice, Orange Juice and The Shop Assistants. It’s also reminiscent of
later-era, happier-sounding Belle & Sebastian, The Magnetic Fields and the
jangle-pop of bands such as The Feelies and Luna.
Clifford, with “Waiting for Something to Happen,” seems to be applying for the
job of greatest front woman of a current band, because her vocal deliveries on
most of this new record are the stuff of instant legend. When she sings the
line “Everybody’s crazy, what’s your excuse baby? Standing in the middle,
waiting for something to happen!” on the title track, I can’t help but get
goosebumps up and down my arms with that back beat of the drums and the Johnny
Marr-style jangle of the guitar. It’s not often when you hear the perfect song
and you know it’s perfect the first time you hear it. And this album has many
songs like that. When Clifford’s voice goes up a full notch on the chorus of
“My Heart Beats” and Doyle’s backing vocals come in right behind it ... or on
“Bury Me Alive,” when Clifford and Doyle harmonize during the romantic chorus
“I wanna get sick, I wanna catch everything you’ve ever caught” (sigh…) it’s
just pure pop perfection. I know, I’m gushing – but seriously, it can’t be
know it’s early, but I just can’t see how this album doesn’t make it near the
peak of my top 10 list at the end of 2013, it’s THAT good.