NICK CAVE and the BAD SEEDS – ” Skeleton Tree ” Best Albums Of 2016

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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Skeleton Tree

Though some of the music on Skeleton Tree predates the tragic death of Nick Cave’s 15-year-old son last year, that event inevitably hangs over and defines the album. Over eight songs, Cave crafts a harrowing, raw portrait of the span and directions of that kind of grief: There is the gaping dread of “Jesus Alone” and “Anthrocene,” there are somber meditations in “I Need You” and “Skeleton Tree,” occasionally gesturing at the possibility of hope. To call the album “haunting” almost minimizes it. There’s a gravity here beyond your average piece of pop music; even in a year as full of death as 2016, you can’t slot this into a narrative. Skeleton Tree is an intimate glimpse at an unimaginable chapter in a person’s life, made all the more powerful for its depiction of how they are trying to process it and continue living after the fact.

Some albums are hard to distance from the events surrounding them. With Skeleton Tree, it’s impossible to overlook the tragic death of Nick Cave’s son midway through the recording process.

It would be inaccurate to say that this is an album about 17-year-old Arthur, as most of it was written before he tragically fell from a cliff in Brighton, but it’s such a major event that it’s hard not to think about it through every note of these eight tracks. Cave’s work is dark and morbid at the best of times, and perhaps there’s an element of “seek and ye shall find” in finding prophecy in his latest work, but it’s particularly chilling that the first line of the album is “you fell from the sky”, and one of the last is “I called out right across the sky”.

The album is beautifully stripped-down and tender, with highlights including the funereal ‘Girl In Amber’, and the ghostly humming and scratchy drumming of ‘Anthrocene’. ‘I Need You’ perhaps hit me hardest of all the songs on the album, where Cave sounds a helpless, broken man as he repeats simple, almost childlike words like “nothing really matters” and “I’ll miss you when you’re gone”.

It’s an absolutely gripping and essential listen, if not always a comfortable one. For Cave to have finished this album at all is a huge credit to him. For him to channel his grief into possibly the best work I’ve ever heard from him is really something else.

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