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Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

By: Helen Ryandownload

Australian rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds recently released their sixteenth album, Skeleton Tree.  Songwriter and frontman Nick Cave’s 15 year old son, Arthur, died during the recording process, and unsurprisingly the album is saturated with grief.

Skeleton Tree represents another step in Cave’s shift away from the Southern Gothic ballads he was known for in the 1980s. It’s not surprising that most of the lyrics on the album consist of impressions, given Cave’s recent denunciation of narrative songwriting. One of the album’s more powerful songs, “I Need You”, spins around a single image: “I saw you standing there in the supermarket/With your red dressing falling and your eyes are to the ground.” The opening track, “Jesus Alone”, consists of a series of surreal impressions: “You’re a young man waking/Covered in blood that is not yours/You’re a woman in a yellow dress/Surrounded by a charm of hummingbirds.” With both songs, traditional narrative structure is discarded entirely, leading to lyrics that are mostly unclear, but emotionally powerful.

Cave’s vocals also contribute to the overall depressing ambiance of the album. Cave sounds like Tom Waits, if Tom Waits had a thinner, shakier voice. It’s a radical departure from the strong vocals of past albums, but it adds to the pathos of Skeleton Tree. Cave’s voice wavering on the line “They told us our gods would outlive us/but they lied” drives home an immense feeling of loss, and a sudden realization of mortality. In another album, with another topic, Cave’s voice would be strange and ill fitting, but for Skeleton Tree, it’s appropriately devastating.

Skeleton Tree has minimal instrumentation, with long-time collaborator Warren Ellis creating a sparse backdrop that never overshadows Cave’s words or voice. Several of the songs (“Girl in Amber”, especially) are reminiscent of the eerie Twin Peaks soundtrack. The constant, unrelenting synth as Cave speaks about how he “knew the world it would stop spinning/now since you’ve been gone” keeps the listener tethered to the song, a witness to an aftermath they don’t –- can’t — fully understand. Other songs, such as “Anthrocene”, bear a close resemblance to recent Radiohead albums. Percussion ranges from minimal to non-existent, while a piano – softer, and more forgiving – contrasts and accompanies the synth across most of the album.


There’s little silver lining to be found in this extraordinarily dark cloud of an album, but it’s not really an album about finding the good in things. It’s an album about death and loss, and that may be exactly what some listeners are looking for.  Skeleton Tree won’t give you a good time, but it’s a powerful and devastating album that’s worth listening to at least once.

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Sciences Nouvelles – Duchess Says

By: Helen Ryan

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French-Canadian band Duchess Says released their third album, Sciences Nouvelles, this year through Bonsound. Like their previous albums, Sciences Nouvelles incorporates the angry energy of punk with an 80s electronica sound.

The majority of the album’s songs, from opener “Inertia, Pt. 1” to frantic, synth-y “I Repeat Myself”, rely on a combination of punk guitar riffs and electronic beats. Weirdly enough, it works. Singer and guitarist Annie-Claude Deschênes is careful not to overwhelm the drums and synths, and the result is catchy, aggressive music that would be only slightly more at home at a punk show than a club. “Travaillez”, the one track solely in French, has a crisp electronic sound and very little guitar, making it one of the more approachable songs on the album. On the opposite end of the spectrum is “Pink Coffin”, a song on which electronics and guitar slide into each other and explode spectacularly. Deschênes fights for space with the instrumentation, her voice regularly surfacing to proclaim, “I give a fuck”.

Several instrumentals showcase the band’s weaker, more experimental side, with “Poubelle” featuring jarring effects that wouldn’t be out of place in an Einstürzende Neubauten song.  Similarly, “Talk in Shapes” is 90 seconds of anxiety-inducing and echo-y noises that, while interesting, don’t lead to anything particularly interesting, and the song doesn’t add much to the album as a whole.

Deschênes sounds very similar to Jehnny Beth from Savages, with the same accusatory, slightly detached vocals, but put through a distortion machine. Lead single “Negative Thoughts” highlights the similarities, with Deschênes’ accent evident as she sings lyrics that could’ve been written by Beth: “You cut me in two/but I would die for more.” Deschênes’ vocals only add to the menacing energy of the album, with words that are barely discernible, but give a feeling of urgency and, at times, distress.

Merging the frantic, aggressive feeling of punk with the measured rhythms of electronic music, Science Nouvelles is an album for many occasions. Listeners may be turned off by some of the more experimental, industrial sounds on the album, but Duchess Says has created an off-putting, interesting experience with something for everyone.

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Camp Flog Gnaw Review

By: Terren Husges

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On the weekend of November 12th, I was fortunate enough to drive back to my hometown of Los Angeles for Tyler the Creator’s 5th year of the Camp Flog Gnaw carnival. Normally just being a day long festival, this year marked the first time for Flog Gnaw being a two day long event. With over 30 artists, and big names like Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak, and even Erykah Badu, it was almost impossible to have a dull moment this weekend. Add in some sunny SoCal weather and good vibes, this was easily one of the top music festivals to be at in 2016.

Although I didn’t go on any of the carnival rides, they were free all weekend to whoever wanted to pass time in between set times with a little excitement. Aside from expensive food and no re-entry into the venue, Camp Flog Gnaw had it all. I was able to make it out to almost all the artists that I wanted to see, and they all provided different vibes to the exhausting weekend. There were two main stages that were about a quarter mile away from each other, so you can assume it got pretty hectic walking back and forth between both stages for different artists. By the end of each day my legs were so done, but I had to get back up the next morning to relive it all over again, and it was worth all the pain.

Three of the most memorable performances of the weekend were hands down by Anderson .Paak, Erykah Badu, and A$AP Ferg (bear with me). They were all memorable for different emotions being displayed through their performances. .Paak is easily one of my favorite artists at the moment, and to be able to see him perform so many songs from Malibu was easily the highlight of the weekend. Not only did he just regularly sing his songs, but also was playing the drums while doing all this, and that’s definitely a performance. Erykah Badu was amazing, and she was giving off so much soul and chill vibes to the whole crowd. She performed many songs off of Baduizm and Mama’s Gun, so now I can check Badu off of my bucket list of artists to see. Now with A$AP Ferg, he was one of my favorite performances for one main reason: it was LIT. Ferg was playing so many bangers and so much hype music, and the crowd was just going nuts. Mosh pits all around, and people were just having a great time listening to some classic Ferg.

Camp Flog Gnaw was by far worth all the money spent for the weekend pass, and I definitely got my moneys worth. Besides the fact I got to see so many of my favorite artists, just the environment was a good time. Everyone was enjoying the music, were super friendly, and everyone was just having a good time. Definitely keep an eye out for Camp Flog Gnaw 2017, as the lineups just keep getting better and better!

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