music / Columns

The Songs Of The Week: Neil Young, Nick Cave, More

September 21, 2016 | Posted by David Hayter
Neil Young Paradox

“I Need You” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

[Genre: Post-Punk]

So the title above might as well read: “Anything” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The release of The Skeleton Tree (a clear album of the year contender) has reasserted Cave’s genius in many quarters – his brilliance has almost been taken for granted during this late career purple patch. “I Need You” isn’t brutal, but it’s not quite serene either, like David Bowie’s “Where Are We Now?” and Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”, the brilliance of the track lies in hearing every crack of age and tremble of withering hesitation in Cave’s croon. This is quite the revelation for a singer who is famous for the nihilistic void that his vocal has come to represent. It’s fair to ask the question at “I Need You’s” conclusion: has Cave lost faith in his own lack of belief or in the bond between two lovers? Probably both, maybe neither.

 “Rude Tings” by Lulu Be

[Genre: Rap]

Talk about a self-assured first single, Lulu Be blends the sounds of Chicago, Ethiopia and Dancehall on this supremely confident debut. “Rude Tings” is a riot. Supremely cocksure, there are hints of the debuts of both Azealia Banks and Angel Haze, but neither of those breakthrough artists felt as easy or breezy as Be. This is the sound of confidence writ large.

“Oxy Moronic” by NOFX

[Genre: Pop-Punk]

This is exactly what punk pop does best. Were an indie, metal or art pop band to take on Big Pharma they’d no doubt sound overly severe, tedious or preachy, but when NoFx take on a serious social issues, they can point out hypocrisy and have the listener laugh along. No one is labeling these punks killjoys or bleeding hearts – and what better way to undermine a vested interest than to turn them into laughing stoke. There’s a reason dictators fear stand up comedians and artists after all.

“Redemption” by Nell

[Genre: Rap]

The chorus doesn’t quite live up to the supremely bleak control of the verse, but Nell’s “Redemption” is a thrilling severe statement. This is music fit for a world where the stakes on the streets are rising each and every day: indeed, the political and social situation is so serious that even trap beats are being turned away from cocaine fuelled parties and towards positive change.

“Company” by Tinashe

[Genre: Pop]

Tinashe makes fantastic pop music. She also knows how to sound genuinely sexy without bending over backwards for attention (despite the “Superlove” video) and, best of all, she embraces dynamic modern production. “Company” is a slow burning gem and, beneath the singer’s smooth R&B veneer, is a wonderfully quirky composition. Setting an insistent key against a slow lurching bass line would be daring enough, but the spasmodic bursts of synth funk, combined with some girlish Tinashe ad-libs, make for a listen that is as intriguing as it is seductive.

“Good Grief” by Nocturnal Habits

[Genre: Indie]

Nocturnal Habits blend members of Unwound and The Melvins to create music that is crushingly dense, but full of vibrant flourishes. Sure “Good Grief” is as washed out and grungy as you’d expect given its veteran creators, but lighter touches, creepy foreshadowing and instrumental injections of color make for a satisfying 21st Century listen.

“Period Piece” by Jenny Hval

[Genre: Art Pop]

Jenny Hval creates music that is beautiful and alienating in equal measure, she also delivers thoughtful, if occasionally preposterous, subject matter (see “Female Vampire”). “Period Piece” is exactly what it sounds like, a delicate and soulful meditation on menstruation that shines the spotlight on both her own experience as a women and the prudish disgust with which society treats this normal bodily function. The crescendo is a peach as the web of slight sounds drops away and Jenny declares: “Don’t be afraid, it’s only blood”.

“Everyone Talking Over Everyone” by Norma Jean

[Genre: Metal]

Prepare for a magnificent pummeling. Throwing the chorus at the listener from the outset seems like a mistake at first, but the second time it rolls around (accompanied by a killer elastic bass riff) it absolutely bulldozes everything in its path. The story of regaining personal autonomy after being surrounded by malicious lies and cruel words also proves a winner.

“My Nene” by Mykki Blanco

[Genre: Rap]

Last week was huge for albums (hopefully we’ll get some time to discuss them) and while it was definitely dominated by guitar music, it’s hard to deny the thrill of hearing Mykki Blanco’s demented wordplay. “My Nene” is a wild, hook orientated thrill ride that flickers between queer quirk and 90s style aggression. The evolution of beat is absolutely stellar.

“4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” by Cymbals Eat Guitars

[Genre: Rock]

Cymbals Eat Guitars might be bummed that their sublime second album, LOSE, failed to shift many units, but they can be buoyed by the knowledge that they are in the midst of an artistic purple patch. Contrasting the shimmering 80s surfaces that dominate their latest album’s opening numbers, is the raspy barroom grandeur of “4th Of July…”. This is all clatter and heartbreak, proof that “emo” and “great American songwriting” do belong in the same sentence.

“ProVision L-3”/”Boyfriend” by Against Me!

[Genre: Rock]

Should we lash out or indulged some heartache? Hell, I couldn’t chose – and why reflect on just one of the two glorious extremes that dominate Against Me!’s new album, when we can sample both? The former is a wild assault on surveillance culture that has no time for melody and the later is a hook driven lament that shakes it head and sighs: “lie to me, right through me”.

“Mean What I Mean” by AlunaGeorge

[Genre: Pop]

This blend of vintage house and sturdy dance might see the edge taken off Aluna’s sharp vocals in search of smoothness, but when the two guest rap verses arrive everything suddenly makes sense. The terse, hardheaded rhymes of Leikeli47 and Dreezy throw Aluna’s slight melody into sharp relief. All three women are strident and self-assured: there is, after all, more than one way to be a strong woman.

“Smile More” by Deap Vally

[Genre: Rock]

“And I am not ashamed of my sex life, though I wish it were better”; how’s that a great line? Deap Vally are not your typical feminist icons. They’re two, often drunken and admittedly miserable women, just trying to live their lives without the interference or opinions of others – and that might not be heavy on theory, but it’s totally badass.

“Clean Your Window” by El Perro Del Mar

[Genre: Pop]

El Perro Del Mar is embracing new sounds and eeking ever closer to a polished pop product. The result is a song like “Clean You Window”: a highly addictive and loose record that exudes as much joy as it does ambition. The lyrics are sharp and heavy in someways (“ignorance grows in the dark”), but this in an airy Afro-pop inspired gem.

Note: Three older singles snuck onto this week’s column so we could highlight exciting new albums while giving you a video to enjoy.