“How Could It All Fall In One Day?” – Fleet Foxes ‘Crack-Up’ Album Review

Fleet Foxes did not suffer the sophomore slump. In fact, their second LP Helplessness Blues was so well received that they seemed to found a different phenomenon: the sophomore peak, where after a six-year absence expectations for their third record were at fever pitch, and a similar level of rapturous acclaim was inevitably unattainable, especially for an album like this. Frontman Robin Pecknold, who’s singular voice defines the third of the band’s records in a way it hasn’t previously, posted on his (very wry) Instagram account a list of ‘inclinations’ for this cycle of music which largely comprise of defiance against the most celebrated characteristics of Helplessness Blues: “avoid singy-songy theatrical vocals” and “establish expectations, subvert expectations”. As a result, Crack-Up is more obtuse than even the subtler moments on Fleet Foxes’ debut, built instead on refused assertions, and contrasts. Continue reading ““How Could It All Fall In One Day?” – Fleet Foxes ‘Crack-Up’ Album Review”

“From The Cave, To The City, To The Permanent Party”, Pure Comedy Album Review

How on earth do you write political music? As Josh Tillman, under the Father John Misty moniker, knows too well – people are partisan: every individual has an opposing opinion and almost all of them think they’re right. His third album, Pure Comedy, is so masterful because it manages to transcend politics, transcend partisanship and instead take a broader perspective – blending political tragedy with a literal cosmic view, all while retaining a deep intimacy. It was a talent he hinted towards on his previous record, as with the wonderful ‘Holy Shit’ from I Love You, Honeybear in which he sings “Maybe love is just an economy/Based on resource scarcity/What I fail to see is what that’s gotta do/With you and me?” Pure Comedy expands this sentiment over 75 minutes, exploring religion and the realpolitik, but asking (unsurprisingly for a songwriter often classed by critics and YouTube commentators alike as the most arrogant man on the indie scene)… what’s this all got to do with me?

Pure Comedy’s title track certainly lays it’s stall out early as a record that will address the capital-b Big Stuff about life on planet Earth: Tillman crooning “The comedy of man starts like this/Our brains are way too big for our mothers’ hips/And so Nature, she divines this alternative/We emerged half-formed and hope that whoever greets us on the other end/Is kind enough to fill us in”. He quickly defines himself as a songwriter looking at life from a macro point of view, but his words never lose their sense of affection, or wit. Pure Comedy, for all its nihilism, holds little in the way of naval gazing, or of blind didcatism: Tillman instead sings with great sincerity, concern and pain.

Continue reading ““From The Cave, To The City, To The Permanent Party”, Pure Comedy Album Review”

“Just Breathe” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree Album Review

This album is bad for your health. I know that because it’s all I’ve listened to once it was released last Friday and I’ve been nothing but melancholic since. There are a few precedents for material this mournful in popular music: Van Morrison’s ‘TB Sheets’, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, David Bowie’s Blackstar: but Skeleton Tree stands almost alone as the blackest aural pit. It sits towards the top of the iTunes charts amongst Now That’s What I Call Music 94 and a dozen songs featuring Justin Bieber like a gaping wound. If none of this makes the record sound especially appealing, then I’ve captured it well: it’s not. But it’s also one of the most powerful and emotionally raw collections of music ever produced.

Continue reading ““Just Breathe” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree Album Review”

Junkyard Poet: Nick Cave’s The Sick Bag Song Reviewed

Nick Cave is a punk-rocker from Victoria, Australia. Now living in Brighton, he got his start in music in the early eighties in a filthy punk band named The Birthday Party. After a few years he mellowed out and gained infinite sophistication as frontman for his band The Bad Seeds – producing albums packed with love songs, Greek tragedies and homicide (featuring Kylie Minogue.) The wordy musician has also written the screenplays for western movies Lawless and The Proposition and his first two novels And The Ass Saw The Angel and The Death Of Bunny Munro were lurid affairs dealing with murder and mortality. The Sick Bag Song is his third novel but, as the title might suggest, also acts as an elongated poem: a confusing mix of fact and fiction which tones down the murder but ratchets up the mortality to a deafening degree. Cave describes it as “the SCUM Manifesto meets The Shropshire Lad meets Apocalypto meets Kanye West meets PornHub…” and so on. I’d describe it as a freshly trawled shell. Difficult to grasp and hard to break: but if you can crack it, there are pearls to be revealed within.

Continue reading “Junkyard Poet: Nick Cave’s The Sick Bag Song Reviewed”

A Quiet Revolution: Sun Kil Moon’s Universal Themes

In 2014 Sun Kil Moon hit their stride with a record many instantly deemed a classic: Benji, in which frontman Mark Kozelek put up front a lifetime of experience and poignant stories of those lost across his life, with a density of language that bordered on spoken word, and a frankness rarely seen in any medium. On Universal Themes he retreats from this boldness, his stories no longer upfront but introverted somehow – and yet the album is twice as ambitious because of it.

Novelist David Foster Wallace was obsessed with the idea of boredom, and the need for distraction. His final novel, The Pale King, was set in an IRS Station and was about exactly that. He was also an essayist and one of his more famous explorations of the topic is titled “This is Water”. It begins with this story:

“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?””

Wallace’s point is this: the un-thought of, tedious realities of life are often the most telling and important, and that to understand this necessitates an awareness of, and attentiveness to, dull truths that are all around us, yet often go unmentioned. On the amazing Benji, Mark Kozelek stunned with remarkable tales which drew to attention the million coincidences and dark ironies that surrounded their death of their protagonists. Universal Themes strives for a similar poignancy, but does it by telling tales of nothing. Continue reading “A Quiet Revolution: Sun Kil Moon’s Universal Themes”