Jamie LidellJamie Lidell/Warp
Every time I’m just about ready to throw my hands up in disgust over the state of modern music, an artist comes along that gives me hope.
That isn’t to say that all of today’s music is unlistenable, but a lot of it is pretty dreadful.
This week’s redeeming artist is Jamie Lidell, who had released a self-titled album of spectacular R&B-based electronic music that sounds modern yet makes some obvious and reverent nods toward some of R&B’s biggest artists of yesteryear.
Listening to the tracks on the new album, one can hear hints of Prince (“Blaming Something”), Zapp & Roger (“Do Yourself a Faver”) and George Clinton (“You Know My Name”).
It’s a welcome return to form after his last release, 2010’s “Compass,” which proved to be a bit disjointed and directionless.
Much like other contemporary artists that glance back at their R&B predecessors, such as Justin Timberlake, Usher and Robin Thicke, Lidell definitely gets the notion that in order to move forward artistically, one must be able to look back when necessary.
Key Tracks: “I’m Selfish,” “Do Yourself a Faver,” “Blaming Something”
Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsPush the Sky Away/Kobalt
Nick Cave has never been one to worry about what anyone else might think about the music he makes.
Along with his band, The Bad Seeds, Cave has released 15 albums in the last three decades. With influences including punk, gothic, classical and rock, the band has long been lauded for its unusual sound.
“Push the Sky Away” is the first release by the band since 2008’s “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!,” a concept album based on the biblical story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus.
On the new album, Cave keeps things pretty stark and moody. “We No Who U R,” the album’s leadoff track, sets the pace for the album.
Where “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!” was loud and boisterous, “Push the Sky Away” is much more subdued. There is plenty of pent-up energy in these songs though, and one can almost hear Cave winding up his emotions like a watch spring as he performs songs such as “Water’s Edge” and the nearly eight-minute “Higgs Boson Blues.”
Not every track is a winner, and newcomers to Cave’s work would be wise to delve into some of his earlier work first. But as is usual on a Nick Cave album, there is beauty among the tension.
Cave has always been more of a performance artist than a rock star, and this new album is no exception. For fans of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “Push the Sky Away” will ultimately satisfy, if for no other reason than the fact that Cave has once again created something unique.
Key Tracks: “We No Who U R,” “Water’s Edge,” “Higgs Boson Blues”
The Bryan Ferry OrchestraThe Jazz Age/BMG
Bryan Ferry has never been content to live in the now. His work, both with Roxy Music and as a solo artist, has always had a sound out of the current time.
Much of Roxy Music’s output sounded futuristic, but Ferry also has demonstrated a penchant for music from the ’20s and ’30s.
Listening to “The Jazz Age,” Ferry’s latest endeavor, it is apparent he has been visiting those old-timey places in his creative mind.
Played by a full jazz orchestra and recorded to sound like the music is being played on a Victrola or through an old-fashioned tube radio set, the music here might sound new, but as it plays, you begin to catch some familiar melodies.
Wait, is that Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug”? Did I just hear the chorus to “Don’t Stop the Dance”?
Ferry has rerecorded 13 songs he either wrote for Roxy Music or during his solo career. The album is completely instrumental, which means Ferry fans will have fun picking out which Ferry tunes made the cut.
Other notable inclusions are “Just Like You” and “Avalon.”
While other artists are recording their versions of the Great American Songbook, Ferry apparently decided that his own music was a more interesting subject. The end result is surprisingly interesting and listenable.
Key Tracks: “Love is the Drug,” “Don’t Stop the Dance,” “Avalon”
By Devin Grant