Arts

Album Reviews: Nick Cave addresses young son's death in deeply moving Skeleton Tree

Nick Cave – his new album with The Bad Seeds is a spine-tingling experience that hits you with wave after wave of emotion

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

Skeleton Tree

SKELETON Tree is Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds' 16th studio album, and their first release since the untimely death of frontman Cave's 15-year-old son, Arthur. It has been released in tandem with One More Time With Feeling, a raw and deeply moving 112-minute documentary that glimpses the usually exceptionally private singer, his family, and the band, dealing with their grief.

It follows the record's – at times – painful recording process, and ruminates on their understandably immense sense of loss. The album comprises eight tracks, clocking in at just 40 minutes in total, and opens with lead single Jesus Alone – a soaring ballad rife with Cave's trademark Gothic imagery.

His vocals, as ever, are richly smouldering as he delivers a monologue to minimal accompaniment. This track sets the tone for what is a sumptuous collection of sombre arrangements.

Cave addresses his son's death in a series of non-linear narratives, leaving the songs open to our own interpretation. It's only the Cave family's uncharacteristic openness in interviews interwoven into One More Time With Feeling that help us understand this is an exploration of every parent's worst nightmare.

This is Cave's most personal and gripping record to date, but he's still not giving too much away – he remains complex and enigmatic throughout.

Standout track I Need You is so tender and grief-stricken it's almost unbearable. The ethereally rousing Distant Sky will float around your head for days. At its best, Skeleton Tree is a spine-tingling experience that hits you with wave after wave of emotion. And its worst? No, I can't fault it.

10/10

Frances Wright

Willie Nelson

For The Good Times – A Tribute To Ray Price

PIONEERING country singer Ray Price gave Willie Nelson his big break back in 1961 by hiring him to join his band. The two remained firm friends until Price's death in 2013 and now, as one of the last country giants still standing, Nelson pays tribute to his mentor by recording some of his best known songs.

As befits such a project, the whole package is bathed in nostalgia – even the CD comes wrapped in a suitably retro sleeve – and there is nothing here that would surprise even a casual fan of Nelson or country music in general.

Old standards like Make The World Go Away, I'm Still Not Over You and For The Good Times are certainly well worn, but then, so is Willie, and his age and status lends these new interpretations their poignancy and resonance.

7/10

James Robinson

Twin Atlantic

Gla

GLA (short for Glasgow) is screamy, shouty, druggy, boozy, but strung with a throbbing undercurrent of pop, so even if you hate boy bands (not, I should note 'boybands' of the early 90s' double-denim-wearing variety), thrashing out blaring noise, you still get tugged into the bracing mix.

As the fourth album from Glaswegian rock quartet Twin Atlantic, it sees the band scupper their so-called glossy 'commercial' edge, but simultaneously find a rawness and brute force that might actually propel people into buying it.

Weirdly. Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator hammers nonsensically around your brain, while Ex El swaps screechiness for a base that builds and builds, filled with melodious yearning, and Whispers brings thoughtfulness and a change of pace. Twin Atlantic might just have stepped out of Biffy Clyro's shadow on this one.

8/10

Ella Walker

Still Corners

Dead blue

THE third Still Corners album sees duo Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray continue their progression toward the glacial pop space populated by the likes of Chromatics, with a greater nod to some of the synthier, electronic moments of the 80s.

There is nothing quite as dreamy as The Trip, the standout track on previous album Strange Pleasures, but as a whole, there is more going on here. Though a much cooler, polished beast, there are still enough driving basslines and guitar hero work from Hughes to lift the tracks up to hit a spot many of their contemporaries fail to reach.

Bad Country sounds like a critique of post-Brexit Britain, its urgent bass building as singer Murray repeats, "We're in a bad country". She sounds more like American songstress Julee Cruise than ever before, especially over the languid pop of Down With Heaven And Hell. Excellent.

8/10

Colm McCrory

Kishi Bashi

Sonderlust

AFTER admitting himself that he was at a musical impasse after getting the 'tricky' second album out of the way, supremely talented violinist and musician Kaoru Ishibashi has taken an adventurous new direction on Sonderlust.

Glimpses of this new sound were heard on 2014's Lighght, and fans of track, The Ballad Of Mr. Steak, are in for a treat. ELO-influenced lead single Hey Big Star epitomises this third solo album, as we hear plenty of space prog rock, with Flame On Flame (A Slow Dirge) sounding like it was ripped from The War of the Worlds, and Ode To My Next Life making a bid to soundtrack the next series of Dr Who.

Although this musical shift is far from unpleasant, album closer Honeybody, with its sweeping violins, loops and glitches, is more like the Kishi Bashi we know and love, and perhaps leaves you wanting more of the same.

7/10

Andrew Carless

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