This is usually the time of the year when I trawl through the Best Albums lists for the previous year; as it turns out some of my big favourites made pretty damn great records.
Sumptuous vintage-flavoured loveliness; no sophomore slump from the queen of experimental pop.
A couple of promising debuts from young female artists; an awesome stomping rawwk record.
Gorgeous introspective music for the soul from a new favourite and the old one.
Mark Lanegan – Phantom Radio & Gargoyle
Mark Lanegan might be my favourite male singer of all time, with a gravelly cigarettes-and-alcohol baritone that sounds so richly lived-in and is deceptively controlled and flexible. And he looks like his voice too – like a person who’s lived through some dark and troubled times. His pipes have become more brittle with years and these days Lanegan sounds less like he’s about to jump out of the speakers and punch you in the face, and his lower register on Gargoyle is almost Leonard Cohen-esque. But his grizzled vocals are no less compelling for that.
These latest two albums continue the experimentation with electronica and synths that first appeared on the 2012 Blues Funeral, while retaining the trademark dark bluesy vibes and oblique lyrics full of macabre gothic imagery and ruminations on sin, death, love and redemption. Business as usual in other words, but as long as his output remains this strong and consistent I’m not complaining. Now bring on the tour!
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Live From KCRW
I would have preferred a full concert recording from the Push the Sky Away tour, but this loose and casual 10-song show performed for the KCRW station in Santa Monica is a great live offering. It’s predictably dominated by the Push the Sky Away material, and the rest of the picks match the quiet, meditative mood of that album, bar the closer Jack the Ripper, a throwback to the fire-and-brimstone Nick Cave of old. It wouldn’t be a Bad Seeds gig without The Mercy Seat, their signature showstopper performed here as a stripped-down piano version with all the white-knuckle tension and power of the original.
I should have had this blog years ago, when I was buying up to five albums a week sometimes and my CD collection ballooned over 900. Since then, I cut down my collection by about a third, and got much more selective about my purchases. By a coincidence, the last two I got are both by Australian artists.