Ghosteen by Nick Cave

Image result for ghosteen

I genuinely don’t really know where to start with this one. First, I guess I should start with an apology. I know what it feels like to have an AOTM chosen that you know will be an effort for you. David, I am sorry. However, I have not chosen this because I am a huge Nick Cave fan. I have a passing knowledge of his music acquired some from of my previous (intense but failed) relationships. I have only ever bought one other Nick Cave album, Dig, Lazarus Dig from 2008. Bought on the strength of reviews, loved at the time but rarely played since.

What I do love about Nick Cave is his undeniably prolific creative output. I think this is his 17th studio album with Bad Seeds, add to that Grinderman and other side projects, soundtracks, screen plays, acting roles, exhibitions etc. This can be seen as self indulgent or it can be viewed more favourably as an endless stream of creativity. A stream that stopped a couple of years ago.

I don’t read too much music press if I am honest. I didn’t know about the loss of his teenage Son Arthur until the release of Ghosteen. I approached the album with some trepidation. I didn’t know what to expect and listened mostly without reading reviews in any detail. When you listen you are going to have to make a decision to give this a go or not. I hope you go with it. What you will find is a double album (double sorry David). The 2nd album contains two 12 minute songs (triple sorry David). As AOTM ‘asks’ go, this is a big one.

What first struck me is the ‘soundscape’. I never know if ‘soundscape’ is the right word. If it were a film it would be the ‘mise en scene’ so what ever the music equivalent of that is, that’s what I mean. Rich textured, chesty, vibrating analogue synths, strings, choral, gospel tinged backing vocals, piano’s and that voice. No matter what you think of Nick Cave, his voice is fucking incredible. It feels like his career to date, he’s been practicing to sing these lyrics and these songs. The first CD/side of the album is formed of 3-6 minute, beautiful and relatively conventional tracks. The 2nd and 3rd tracks, ‘Bright Horses’ and ‘Waiting for You’ are undeniably beautiful ballads. I think they will act as ‘anchor’ tracks that you will find yourself falling for on repeated listens. They are the most conventional and identifiable tracks and feature some achingly beautiful lyrics.

‘He’s the little white shape dancing at the end of the hall / the wish that time couldn’t dissolve’

And for me, this line, is a beautiful example of what I love about this album. ‘Arthur’ is never named. The word ‘death’ never appears. Neither does ‘grief’. Nor ‘loss’. There is close to no use of the past tense. The album revolves around the positivity and hope of the present and future tenses.

This album is not about loss. It is about permanence.

It is about the power of love and of memory. It makes me feel that there can be beauty found in the deepest tragedy which somehow makes me feel more connected with the things that I love the most.

Before Sammy was born we called him ‘Wolfgang’ it stuck so much we considered it for real. It feels like ‘Ghosteen’ is used in a similar manner by the Cave family on the other side of the life continuum. ‘There is nothing wrong with loving something that you can’t hold in your hand’

Back to the ‘ask’ – David, CD 2 will be a challenge for you. I’ll just call that now. I do urge you to give it a go though. I have these tracks play continuously CD1 and CD2 without interruption and feel this is the best experience. Nick Cave talks about the CD2’s tracks being the ‘parent’ tracks, they were written first and spawned the ‘children’, the tracks found on CD1. This only really makes sense when you become deeply familiar with the music. I hope this is somewhere that you get with this beautiful music.

‘I am beside you, look for me’

November AOTM : Rapsody – Eve

Welcome to November and an album that was very hard to get my hands on. In-fact there was only one place on the entire internet where I could order it. I need to highlight that this is becoming very common within Hip Hop; digital only albums which has resulted in us meeting some really good albums…. I digress…..

 

Rapsody has been making waves within not only Hip Hop but also the music industry in general over the last 5 years. Backed by super producer 9th Wonder’s Jamla Team and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Records, Rapsody is hands down one of the hot commodities in Hip Hop. I must admit I was a little late to the party with Rapsody. It wasn’t until I heard ‘Power’ from her last album that I started to pay attention. Since then she has appeared on many of my favourite songs over the last 18 months often stealing songs where she guest appears. Why do I like her? She’s an MC’s MC. She moulds her deep southern routes with impressive word play and honesty.

 

The concept of her latest effort ‘Eve’ is a nod to 16 of her female heroes which is firstly highlighted in the song titles and also lyrically throughout. Now, that being said, as a middle aged white male this is obviously right in my wheel house. Joking aside this album is banging!

 

Rapsody starts the album with ‘Nina’, for me it’s a statement song. Lyrically she does in straight away, and really sets the pace for the album. Throughout the song and throughout the album Rapsody touches on personal experience and her view on being a black female not only the music industry but more so in present day America.

 

Joining rhapsody on the album there is a wide range of guests from new to old. Man of the moment J.Cole joins Rapsody along with the likes of GZA, Dangelo, Queen Latifah and Leikeli47 to name a few.

 

I think there’s something for you all on this album. I think it’s accessible for Brother Guy, it’s got pure hip hop for Brother Joey and lyrically it will keep Brother David on his toes. As I’m introducing you to this album I’m going to avoid my personal highlights as I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

I also need to stress that after this you need to take some time and visit ALL of her albums on Spotify as they’re pretty remarkable.

October: Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka

Yes, brothers, it’s a bit late, but my god, it’s worth the wait. What can you say about Michael Kiwanuka that’s not already been said? Let’s get the cliches out of the way first: he harks back to the best soul musicians of the 60s and 70s, be it Bill Withers, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, with a twinge of the jazz he so adores, but he brings that soul, that classic guitar into the modern age, (with a little help from the talents of Danger Mouse and Inflo) with electronic touches and flourishes. Oh, and I think we forgot that it’s easy listening, middle-class soul that belies a depth and richness, and a self-criticism that shows underneath the wizadry, there’s real doubt, loss and sadness.

Now that’s over with, let’s talk about what goes outside the usual tick-box talking points. Because in Michael Kiwanuka we have an artist that could be set to ascend to the heights of a modern great, at a time when the music he makes feels beautifully out of step with everything else on show: tracks that you expect to crackle with the fizz of vinyl, that don’t adhere to radio-friendly lengths or structures, (yet get picked up by globally renowned TV shows) however simple they may seem at first sight. Yes, you may say he should’ve been born 30 years earlier, but in some ways, that would’ve meant he’d perhaps sunk back into the ‘really good’ with so many legends around him. Truth be told, we’re lucky he’s around now, because that means he stands out, and – for those of us of a certain age – he beautifully espouses the virtues of proper songwriting.

And yet, it could’ve been so different. In many ways Kiwanuka is an anachronism. An immigrant kid, growing up in a white, middle-class suburb in north London, stripped of some of the struggles that peers may have encountered. Growing up immersed in jazz and soul, rather than hip-hop or r’n’b, a skater (but really, not that good), and dropping out of his dream course at the Royal Academy to write some songs, play them in a pub, and see where it went, assuming it’d be respected session musician, and never Glastonbury headliner, and singer-songwriter that spent years both convinced his own voice wasn’t up to the mark, then when fame finally hit, wracked with self-doubt, a self-labelled impostor that walked out of sessions with Kanye and struggled singing songs about the bleak side of love as he was getting married himself.

But to stick with Kiwanuka is an experience that rewards you, continually. Even the breakout Home Again, and the BBC Sound of 2012 – which seems so incredibly long ago – didn’t seem to quite bring him the expected success he’d been talked up for. It wasn’t until Love And Hate, four years later, that the it felt like the world caught up. It debuted at No.1 in the UK, and was an album that improved with every listen, his voice just drifting into gravelly, lovelorn ennui, cloaked in sadness. It was hard enough to listen to sometimes in good days, let alone when you’d gone through a break-up, or suffered loss. Every track dripped with sadness, with subtle, careworn character that settled like winter snow. And when he found his voice as a black man in the modern world, it gave us musical glory.

So where do you go from here? Radical reinvention? Pastiche? In this case, a bit of that, but mostly taking what made you so loved, and adding layers. But as with his own character, it’s not a brash statement, but something enveloped in a sound so pure, rich and powerful, that it reveals itself slowly. And shows that along with musical growth, Kiwanuka is also starting to feel more at home with himself. The first single, You Ain’t The Problem, finds him coming to the realisation that, whatever tribulations and doubt there is, it’s not himself that’s at the centre of it. Hero is self-questioning, with a video that puts his own contradictions at its heart, but doesn’t put the blame at his own door, and throughout the album, there are songs whose first impact is ‘that’s nice’, but as you delve deeper and let the music wash over you, and the lyrics sink in, you get to enjoy the slow-burning, blossoming joy as the album slowly shifts under your feet, and you just want to listen again, and again, and again.

Not everything, it seems has to be accessible and obvious from the off, and so this gentle but powerful anachronism, at odds with a fast-paced, condensed, over-saturated world, is everything it should be: a current classic, a future classic, and one of the albums of the year. Amen, Michael.