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Anna von Hausswolff gives me chills

Anna von Hausswolff gives me chills

I’ve read reviews of Anna von Hausswolff’s previous albums in print magazines and online, but I had never bought any of her music. Then I read a four-star review of her new album, Dead Magic, in the April issue of MOJO Magazine where James McNair described her vocal performance for the song “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra” as “…astonishing. With its whoops, shudders and sandpaper-throated expulsions, her singing sounds like an exorcism”. Okay then, tell me more! McNair describes where and how the album was created:

Recorded in nine days, largely using the hulking 20th century pipe-organ at Copenhagen’s Marmorkirken, or Marble Church, …With it’s spidery strings, drones, suspensions and drama-rich support from Hausswolff’s five-piece backing band, Dead Magic comes on like a horror soundtrack-in-waiting, its 47-minute journey bridged by just five songs. Thematically, it’s big on myths, legends and oblivion, and the darker more esoteric kind of magic you wouldn’t likely associate with Ali Bongo.

( I didn’t know who Ali Bongo was either.)

After reading the MOJO review, I searched around and found this article by Laura Snapes in The Guardian.

Never mind other people’s perceptions; she’s more perplexed by her reaction to her own music. “When I start becoming ugly, or raw or unfiltered, that’s also when the most interesting things happen,” she says. “But I feel shame because that’s not how you’re supposed to present yourself as a female. I’m quite a modern girl – and luckily in Sweden we have a very open mind towards women in arts – but I still get that feeling that I’m in a place I shouldn’t be, doing things you really shouldn’t do, like I’m fighting the ideals projected down from our ancestors.”

The paucity of women in extreme music means these stereotypes are even tougher to break: “They have to defend what they’re doing so hard because they’re in a male-dominated genre, so there’s more focus on them being female than on their work. It’s still weird for people to see someone screaming her nuts out, playing loud music. I think, how can it be shocking any more? We still haven’t broken down our idea of how the genders should be.” Old, male pipe organ custodians just about manage to avoid patting her on the head when they show her around their instruments. “Usually I just smile and let the music speak for itself, and then afterwards they’re always shocked and don’t know what to say any more.”

And then I watched this video, and you should too, like right now.

And then I bought the album.

It’s right in my wheelhouse. It’s like P.J. Harvey circa To Bring You My Love melded with Nick Cave’s Let Love In, Richard Wagner’s organ music, and the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. It gave me chills and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Buy it now and play it LOUD!

The Best Albums of 2016

The Best Albums of 2016

2016 was a terrible year in many ways, but it was a great year of music. Here is my list of the best albums of 2016.

1. Skeleton Tree, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This album was started before Nick’s son Arthur died in 2015. Understandably, that tragedy weighed heavily on Nick as he wrote the songs for this album. The album is sad in a beautiful way. If you haven’t seen the movie, One More Time with Feeling, that played in cinemas around the globe on the eve of the release of this album, you should.

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KEXP Listeners’ Top 12 Artists of All Time

KEXP Listeners’ Top 12 Artists of All Time

KEXP completed its fall pledge drive yesterday, and during the week-long drive they counted down the top 437 artists of all time as voted on by listeners. Listeners had until September 19th to cast their votes for their top twelve. I’m not sure why the final list was 437. It could be that’s the total number of different artists that were chosen by listeners, or maybe it was an air-time issue – the number of songs they could get through during the daytime pledge-drive hours. (Anybody at KEXP reading this who knows why the list was 437?)

I listened to the station during my drives to and from work during the week, and I must say the banter from Kevin Cole, Troy Nelson, and Tilly (?) during the afternoon show was pretty entertaining. I especially liked Troy’s “80’s scream”. Just thinking about trying to imitate it makes my throat hurt.

Anyway, here’s the top twelve as voted on by listeners:

1 The Beatles
2 Radiohead
3 Led Zeppelin
4 The Clash
5 Nirvana
6 Pixies
7 David Bowie
8 Bob Dylan
9 The Rolling Stones
10 Neil Young
11 R.E.M.
12 Pink Floyd

I get that a lot of people of all generations like The Beatles, and the band has had a long time to grow a fan base, but I would have flipped The Rolling Stones’ spot for The Beatles’ spot. I listen to the Stones pretty often – mostly the late sixties through mid-seventies era, and those albums still sound pretty fresh to me. As for The Beatles, I listen to them once and a while, but I’ve grown tired of them.

No surprise that Radiohead placed high on the chart, because they used to win the album-of-the-year polls every time they put out a record. Led Zeppelin ahead of The Clash? Come on! Nirvana snuck in as the only American band in the top five.

Here’s my list from a couple weeks ago with corresponding KEXP rankings:

1 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (59 – not bad, but someday the rest of you will come around.)
2 Patti Smith (67 – really? Have you seen her live?)
3 Tom Waits (35 – but he had ten albums on their list of top 903 albums of all time.)
4 Johnny Cash (13 – about where I would expect.)
5 P.J. Harvey (56 – she deserves much better than this.)
6 The Clash (4)
7 Bob Dylan (8)
8 Bruce Springsteen (43 – he’s better than this, but not a surprising ranking for KEXP)
9 The Rolling Stones (9)
10 Nirvana (4)
11 X (85 – really? John Fuckin’ Doe? Listen to their first four albums again.)
12 Bob Marley (32 – perhaps his ranking will rise now that we can buy pot legally in this state.)

But what about Sufjan Stevens? I had a beef with fellow listeners after the Top 903 albums of all time poll. His Come on Feel the Illinois ranked #15 in that one – way ahead of much more worthy albums. For this poll he came in 89th. His star has faded because he hasn’t really done anything since.

Nothing else too surprising about the results. What do you all think?

Who are your top 12 musical artists of all time – KEXP wants to know

Who are your top 12 musical artists of all time – KEXP wants to know

KEXP is gearing up for it’s fall pledge drive, and this time it’s asking listeners to vote on their top twelve artists of all time. They will be counting down through the list of top artists during their pledge drive that begins September 26th.

These listener polls never turn out the way I would like them to, and sometimes they are so far off the mark I wonder if all the other listeners are even listening to the same radio station.

That said, here is my list of top twelve for you all to review and critique at your leisure.

The top six that should be on everyone’s list:

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Patti Smith

Tom Waits

Johnny Cash

P.J. Harvey

The Clash

The next tier of six

Bob Dylan

Bruce Springsteen

The Rolling Stones

Nirvana

X

Bob Marley

That makes twelve, but if I could vote for more, I’d choose:

Neil Young

Prince

Jimi Hendrix

Mark Lanegan

Public Enemy

Hank Williams, Sr.

Elvis Costello

Sonic Youth

That’s twenty. I could go on, but I won’t.

So keep these artists in mind (especially the top 6, because they belong at the top) when you go to KEXP to cast your votes.

You have until 6:00 p.m. this Friday, so don’t delay. Vote now!
Check back when the pledge drive ends on October 3rd to see who the listeners picked.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle – July 2, 2014

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle – July 2, 2014

Nick Cave and Mark Lanegan

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds played in front of an open-floor crowd at The Paramount Theater last night. That’s the best venue layout for Nick, because he feeds off the energy of the crowd – sucks it up and burns it bright on stage.

I will add links to other sites with better photos and reviews during the day. For now, here’s the set list.

Set List

We Real Cool
Jubilee Street
Tupelo
Red Right Hand
Mermaids
From Her to Eternity
Stranger than Kindness
Into My Arms
Sad Waters
God is in the House
The Weeping Song, with Mark Lanegan singing Blixa’s part (see above photo)
Higgs Boson Blues
The Mercy Seat
Stagger Lee
Push the Sky Away

Encore
The Lyre of Orpheus

Here’s the first review I’ve come across. It’s by Kathy Fennessy for The Stranger SLOG.

“Tupelo” was one of a few songs from early in Cave’s career. By this point, his discography is deep enough that he doesn’t need to dig that far back for gems, but I’m sure the audience appreciated it as much as I did (I noticed plenty of people my age and older, like King County Executive Dow Constantine, who was positioned near the front of the stage). “From Her to Eternity,” title track from Cave’s 1984 debut, came off especially well. Other highlights included “Red Right Hand” and “The Mercy Seat,” although I have to confess that I like the Johnny Cash cover so much I hoped Cave would use Rick Rubin’s arrangement (he didn’t).

And then, just when I was thinking how nice it would be for P.J. Harvey or Kylie Minogue to drop by—stranger things have happened—he brought out Lanegan for “The Weeping Song.” Mark sang the first half, Nick the second. Nothing revelatory, but it sounded good. “The great Mark Lanegan,” Cave said as he left the stage…

Excerpt from Morgan Schuler’s review for The Seattle Weekly:

From the moment the lights went down, Nick Cave flew onto the stage and as he danced his way from one side to the other through his first two songs, “We Real Cool” and “Jubilee Street”, the energy was high, save for a few breaks for piano ballads. Leaning into the crowd, pawing at the audience, grabbing hands and singing directly into the first row showed how much he loves his fans.

He didn’t slow down after those first two songs either, dancing in that weird funky way he has as if he’s using his hands to guide his movements around the floor and taking a small jump when the music gets really intense.

And check out Schuler’s 31 photos of the show. Here’s one.

Nick Cave’s Christ-Like Sacrifice for The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave’s Christ-Like Sacrifice for The Bad Seeds

Nick Cave stopped drinking about ten years ago. Here’s what he has to say about his commitment to sobriety during an interview by Tom Doyle in the February 2014 issue of MOJO Magazine:

Our car pulls up outside the Malmaison Hotel, where Cave sits alone at the base of a stone pillar, smoking a fag. MOJO joins him for one. It must be hard, I say, trying to maintain his sobriety while everyone around him gets pissed?

“It is sometimes,” he admits. “I mean, sometimes you just want everything to go away, y’know. Who doesn’t? And you don’t have that…ready sort of access to something to do that.”

His face suddenly lights up, as he’s struck by a thought.

“Y’know, I did a kind of Christ-like sacrifice for the health of the band,” he says. “I stopped drinking, so they could continue.”

Nick Cave just says No.
photo by Tom Oldham for MOJO Magazine

The Best Albums of 2013

The Best Albums of 2013

2013 was an awesome year for music. There were many great albums put out by some of my favorite artists, and there were several outstanding albums put out by artists I’d never paid much attention to in previous years, and a few by brand new artists. That said, let’s get to the number one album of the year:

1. Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsPush the Sky Away. This is the album I listened to the most during the year. It is a quiet follow-up to the cacophonous noise of Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! released five years earlier. The album sounds as spacious as the brightly lit room on the cover, but sounds much darker and as beautiful as the model on the cover – his wife, Susie Bick (in the nude!). Key tracks are “Jubilee Street” and “Higgs Boson Blues“. Here’s video about the making of the album.

2. Valerie JunePushin’ Against a Stone. I first heard Valerie June on Greg Vandy’s show, The Roadhouse, on KEXP. I was captivated by her arresting voice and the expert blending of folk, country, blues, and country music. Her album was released in Europe early in the year, and you could watch videos and listen to it on the web, but it wasn’t released in the US until August. The album was coproduced by Kevin Augunas and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who no doubt drew some extra attention from the press, and received great reviews in many major music publications. I bought it the day it came out and have been listening to it ever since. Key tracks are the title track and “Workin’ Woman Blues”. Here’s a video about Valerie and her debut album.

3. Holly WilliamsThe Highway. Prior to this year I had only heard Holly Williams singing her rendition of her grandfather’s, (Hank Williams, Sr. – she has the blood of Hank in her, and it shows) “Blue is My Heart” on the excellent album project titled The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. I was hooked on her voice and her style after hearing the song, and then I read a great review of The Highway in Uncut Magazine and went looking for the album to buy. I ended up buying it from Amazon, and I have yet to see it stocked in a brick-and-mortar store. That’s because it was independently released on her own label Georgiana Records, which apparently wasn’t picked up by any distributors. That’s a shame, because this album is a real gem. Holly’s voice sits front and center of a mostly sparse and acoustic production. The songs are of the south and of her family. Key tracks are the opener, “Drinkin'” and the closer, a song about her grandmother June Bacon White, “Waitin’ on June”.

4. Kurt Vile and The ViolatorsWakin’ on a Pretty Daze. If you like guitars and catchy melodies, you’ll love this album. It reminds me of some really great Neil Young albums I’d listened to very loud while driving around on a hot summer day. Go read Tulip Frenzy for a review. Key tracks are the title track and “Snowflakes are Dancing”.

5. Low The Invisible Way. I first learned of Low when they opened for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Fifth Avenue Theater in Seattle way back in 1998. The house was packed with people anxious to see Nick, and Low was kind of a quiet shoegazer band at the time, but I really like what I was hearing when I was able to hear it over the very loud man talking behind me. (I asked him to be quiet or leave. He stayed, but he was quiet.) Since then I’d heard them on the radio and liked the music, but never really got into them until this year. The Invisible Way was produced by Jeff Tweedy, and he has a way about bringing out the best in people. The album opens with a very humorous song, “Plastic Cup” sung by Alan Sparhawk. Mimi Parker sings backup on this one, but she takes the lead vocal on several songs on the album, including “Just Make it Stop“, another standout track.

6. DaughterIf You Leave. Elena Tonra is the leader of this London trio. I was hooked on this band the moment I first heard “Youth” on KEXP. The sound of their debut album is sparse and hypnotic, and the lyrics take you inward to a claustrophobic space. Beautiful record that I listen to all the time. “Amsterdam” is another standout track.

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Paramount Theatre, Seattle April 2013

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Paramount Theatre, Seattle April 2013

Nick Cave Paramount marqueeTickets for this show went very fast. The Paramount website says the band requested ticketless sales and a four-seat limit. Fans only. No re-entry. No scalpers. Ticket buyers had to show up in person with ID to claim their tickets. The Paramount staff was very good at getting people through the ticket pick-up lines that were organized alphabetically, so it didn’t take long to get into the venue. (There were paper tickets, but fans didn’t get them until right before they were scanned at the door.)

Sharon Van Etten came on stage at 8:00 p.m. and played a short set accompanied by only her percussionist. She played guitar and sang around six songs, and her voice sounded magnificent. I really like the way she sounds on her album Tramp, but last night she sounded better than she does on her album. Maybe it’s the size of the venue and the charge she got from such an appreciative and respectful audience that made her voice so strong and clear. I hope her producer can capture it on her next album. I wish I had written down the names of the songs she played, but I didn’t, so no setlist. The last song she sang was a new one that she said her boyfriend said sounded like she was ripping off Nick Cave. I thought it was her best song.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds took the stage at 9:01 p.m, and Sharon Van Etten joined them as a backup singer. That’s her second from the left.

Nick Cave 2About these photos: I took all but one of them with a Sony Cybershot using a 10X zoom. The camera has a hard time auto-focusing because of the colored lights, and Nick moves around a lot, so yes they are a little blurry. Best I could do though. Megan Seling posted some much clearer photos by Beth Crook on The Stranger’s “Line Out” blog.

Nick opened the show with three tracks off the new album, Push the Sky Away. First was “We No Who U R”, a tranquil song with sparse instrumentation. Next was “Jubilee Street” that starts out quiet and gradually builds into a rumbling, almost blues number accented by the very raw and loud guitar playing of Warren Ellis.

“Wide Lovely Eyes” is a happier, more upbeat song from the album, and it was followed by the epic “Higgs Boson Blues” that name drops Robert Johnson and the Devil, alludes to Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel, places Hannah Montana in the African Savannah, and ends with Miley Cyrus floating in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake.

During the song Nick moved all around the stage whipping his microphone chord in and out of his way, and Warren Ellis played some wicked loud riffs on electric guitar. Nick did stop near center stage and kneeled down in front of the audience to grab hold of a woman’s hand and hold it to his chest as he sang “Can you feel my heart beat? Can you feel my heart beat?” No doubt she did. So did the rest of us in the form of Martin Casey’s powerful bass playing.

Nick Cave 1For the cacophonous part of the show Nick drew from his catalogue of classic Bad Seeds songs starting with “From Her to Eternity”, followed by “Red Right Hand” featuring Warren Ellis going nuts on both violin and guitar, then “Deanna” and a short non-introduction to “Jack the Ripper”. (He started to say something but stopped. He’s just not into introductions.)

Nick Cave 3

Following the sonic maelstrom that is The Bad Seeds, Nick sat down at the piano and took off his suit jacket. The crowd cheered the jacketless Mr. Cave, and he responded with “Really? Is that all it takes?” Nick played piano and sang three songs, “Love Letter”, “People Ain’t No Good”, and “No More Shall We Part”.

He eased back into full-band mode again with “The Weeping Song” followed by “The Mercy Seat” delivered to us as a howl from Hell.

The band started into a slow blues groove, and Nick strutted around the stage as he got into character to tell his version of the story of a killer named “Stag” Lee Sheldon, better known to Nick fans as the bad motherfucker called “Stagger Lee”. The band exploded in shrieks of noise to highlight the end of each verse. Before the final verse of the recorded version of the song, Nick knelt down and wrapped his free arm around a fan at the edge of the stage and pulled him in tight against his body as he sang, ”

Just then Billy Dilly rolls in and he says, “You must be That bad motherfucker called Stagger Lee.”

Stagger Lee

“Yeah, I’m Stagger Lee, and you better get down on your knees and suck my dick because if you don’t, you’re gonna be dead,”

Said Stagger Lee

Billy dropped down and slobbered on his head and Stag filled him full of lead

Oh yeah

Followed by more high-decibel “gun shots” and electric screams from the band.

But that wasn’t the end of the song. The band quieted down and Nick began a new verse:

In come the devil said “I’ve come to take you down Mr. Stagger Lee. I’ve come to take you down Mr. Stagger Lee”.

Well those were the last words that the Devil said, ’cause Stag put four holes in the motherfuckers head.”

That’s right, Stagger Lee is badder than the Devil.

And what better place to end a set? They left the stage and came back after a few minutes for the two-song encore. Nick’s ode to Elvis, “Tupelo” was first, and the show ended with the title track from Push the Sky Away.

Nick Cave 5

Here’s the setlist:

We No Who U R
Jubilee Street
Wide lovely Eyes
Higgs Boson Blues
From Her to Eternity
Red Right Hand
Deanna
Jack the Ripper
Love Letter
People Ain’t No Good
No More Shall We Part
The Weeping Song
The Mercy Seat
Stagger Lee
Encore
Tupelo
Push the Sky Away

And when I find some more reviews I’ll link to them here.

Review for City Arts by Rachel Shimp.

Bobby Switchblade over at Will the Fire described the sound quite well.

It sounded like so much electricity was being channeled through the monitors that it could only process it by funneling it all into one disorienting din that reminded me of films that depict the heavy ringing in your ears that can follow exposure to a bomb blast or gun shot. Despite the array of instruments being played on stage, the sound they created became one giant gong amplifying the song’s sense of simultaneous implosion, explosion and disintegration.

Seattle Post Intelligencer review.

KEXP review.

Back Beat Seattle review and lots of photos by Dagmar.

YouTube videos of the concert: Deanna, Love Letter, Tupelo, Stagger Lee

Nick Cave Kicks off his 2013 US Tour in Austin at SXSW tonight

Nick Cave Kicks off his 2013 US Tour in Austin at SXSW tonight

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are touring the US in support of their new album, Push the Sky Away, and their first show is tonight at SXSW at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q in Austin, Texas.

Unless you are in Austin tonight and have a Platinum Pass, or won some sort of ticket raffle, or know someone in the band or a friend of someone in the band, or work at Stubb’s, you aren’t seeing the show. But you can watch it on your computer because NPR is broadcasting the special showcase tonight featuring Nick Cave, Waxahatchee, Café Tecvba, Youth Lagoon, Yeah Yeah Yeas, and Alt-J. Nick will take the stage at 5:45 p.m. PST.

So tune in on your computer, smartphone, or radio and listen to some of what Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds will be playing at their nineteen sold-out shows across the US that are going on through April 21st.

They will be in Seattle at The Paramount Theatre on Sunday, April 7th. Sharon Van Etten will open the show.

There are no paper tickets so I don’t know how you can get in if you don’t have a ticket.

Set List

Higgs Boson Blues

Wide Lovely Eyes

Jubilee Street

From Her to Eternity

Red Right Hand 

Jack the Ripper

Deanna

The Mercy Seat

Stagger Lee 

Push the Sky Away

Only a one-hour set with no encore. I expect he’ll be doing much more during regular gigs.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away – US Release: 02/19/2013

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away – US Release: 02/19/2013

nick-cave-push-the-sky-away

From an interview by Alexis Petridis for The Guardian:

The cover was shot in his bedroom, a few streets away from where we are sitting. It features his wife, model Susie Bick, naked, something Cave is at pains to point out wasn’t his idea. He walked in on his wife’s photoshoot for a French magazine, the photographer happened to press the shutter button and that was that: “I was more reluctant to use it than she was, to be honest.”

That shot is in sharp contrast to Cheryl Waters’ image of Nick Cave the reclusive songwriter hunched over a typewriter at his desk in a dim, kerosene-lamp lit room. I remember when she posed a rather ridiculous question to him during a 2008 interview about whether or not he was connected to the modern world of computers and the internet. He responded with something like, “Is this interview live? If not, you might want to go back and edit out that last question.”

Back to the interview…

The city seeps into the lyrics too, on a song called Jubilee Street: the titular home of Headmasters’ hairdressers, the Jubilee Library and a branch of Tesco Express rather improbably taking its place amid what you might call the more classic Cavian lyrical concerns of violence, sex and strikingly drawn visions of Armageddon.

He was keen, he says, to “move away from guitar-orientated music and that classic Nick Cave ballad style, to let a little bit of air and a little bit of light in”. Still, as he points out, some things never change. “I don’t think the lyrical concerns have altered particularly.”

The deluxe edition comes with a facsimile of the notebook Cave worked out the album’s lyrics in. “Some of it’s dreadful and painful to read, but I just thought – what the fuck,” he says, before getting the actual notebook out and offering me a brief precis of his working methods. “Pages and pages of absolute shit,” he sighs, turning them over. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. And just every now and then something, little tiny ideas start to come out.”

Here’s part of a review of the album by Stuart Berman on Pitchfork:

Push the Sky Away presents an uncharacteristically weightless, eerily atmospheric sound; in lieu of crossover ballads like “Into My Arms” and “People Ain’t No Good”, we have foggy reveries built upon ominously rumbling bass lines, twitchy rhythmic tics, and hushed-voice intimations. It may not erupt with same force as the Bad Seeds’ stormiest gestures, but the underlying menace fuelling it remains.

Cave and his increasingly prominent foil, Warren Ellis, could experiment with textures and loops (to the point of spawning a remix album). These production intricacies form the bedrock of Push the Sky Away, which is less a showcase for Bad Seeds’ powerhouse prowess than a reconstructed fever-dream memory of it, transmuting the familiar into something foreign. There’s a sense of the Bad Seeds expanding their sound and unlearning it at the same time.

I’ve heard three songs off the new album, “We No Who U R“, “Jubilee Street“, and “Higgs Boson Blues” and liked all of them. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear the whole album, and until Sunday, April 7th to see him live at The Paramount Theater.