This Week’s Best Albums: February 19, 2013

This Week's Best Albums: February 19, 2013

Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases for This Week’s Best Albums, an eclectic set of reviews presenting exceptional music.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)

"Jubilee Street"

Futility. There’s a lot of it on the new album from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: the futility of first love, class mobility, and the modern world. All of this is contrasted with softness and melody — creating a tension between dejection and optimism.

An amalgam of eclectic sounds and disparate thoughts, fittingly inspired by the Internet, Push the Sky Away is not a fast or loud record. Nick Cave’s vocals are delivered sedately, only occasionally rising to a throaty howl. These moments, backed with female vocalists and the skillful loops of Warren Ellis, lend as much to the urgency as the lyrical content. Cave crooning about Miley Cyrus, Wikipedia, and the Higgs boson over strings, piano, bass, and light percussion manages not to sound dated; instead, a timeless feel pervades the album, a modern offering redone in traditional trappings.

- Lincoln Eddy

Shai Hulud: Reach Beyond the Sun (Metal Blade)

"Reach Beyond the Sun"

In 1997, Shai Hulud released a debut LP, Hearts Once Nourished with Hope and Compassion, that became a cult favorite and helped define the landscape of metalcore. Led by guitarist Matt Fox, its mathy hardcore was melodic yet frenetic, topped by the blistering, gravelly screams of Chad Gilbert.

But Gilbert, who was just 16 at the time, eventually left to found pop-punk quintet New Found Glory, and Shai Hulud ended up rotating vocalists on its two subsequent full-lengths. Reach Beyond the Sun brings a long-awaited return, with Gilbert both producing and supplying vocals for 11 assailing songs of riff-borne fury and rancorous gang vocals.

Yet for as welcome a return as Gilbert's vocals are, Fox's winding, chugging riffs are the star, turning any number of directions but never losing urgency or melody. Whether or not you were a fan back in the day, pick this up.

- Scott Morrow

Dan Friel: Total Folklore (Thrill Jockey)


Halfway between overwhelming noise rock and video-game chiptunes, Dan Friel’s Total Folklore holds a place all its own. With sounds that might not seem remotely musical, including noises recorded on his phone, he combines atonality with lurching bass lines, alternating tempos, and hyper-melodic electronics.

Conceived partially during “epic walks,” the songs on Total Folklore are paced for city exploration, offering a soundtrack to the urban environment. Synths screech into life, fading higher and higher, seemingly reaching the limits of human hearing before shifting back to bass pulsations. This is a love letter to constructed spaces like nothing before.

- Lincoln Eddy

V/A: Son of Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys (Anti-)

Shane MacGowan w/ Johnny Depp & Gore Verbinski: "Leaving Liverpool"

What do you get when you bring together musicians like Tom Waits, Shane MacGowan, Broken Social Scene and Keith Richards, sissy bouncers Big Freedia and Katey Red, and actor Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski? The second in a series of high-seas-themed music compilations, Son of Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys. The original Rogue's Gallery, released in 2006, was a project conceived on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and this record keeps up the teaming of historical songs of the sea with modern musicians.

Though it holds an eclectic group of talent, the album benefits from production by Hal Willner, whose pedigree in the world of tribute albums is long. You probably won't enjoy each selection, but most are interesting both musically and content-wise. Waits and Richards chime in with “Shenandoah,” Shilpa Ray teams up with Nick Cave and Warren Ellis for The Threepenny Opera’s “Pirate Jenny,” and Iggy Pop and A Hawk and A Hacksaw sing the buggery-themed “Asshole Rules the Navy.” Set sail.

- Lincoln Eddy

Honorable Mentions:

Botanist: IV: Mandragora (The Flenser, 2/19/13)

Disperse: Living Mirrors (Season of Mist, 2/19/13)

Flea: Helen Burns EP (Org Music)

Gray Young: Bonfire

Inspectah Deck & 7L & Esoteric: Czarface (Brick)

Matmos: The Marriage of True Minds (Thrill Jockey)

Misery Index: Live in Munich (Season of Mist)

Parenthetical Girls: Privilege (Slender Means Society / Marriage)

Puscifer: Donkey Punch the Night EP

Suffocation: Pinnacle of Bedlam (Nuclear Blast)