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Albums of the Year 2019: Nick Cave - Ghosteen | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2019: Nick Cave - Ghosteen

Albums of the Year 2019: Nick Cave - Ghosteen

Beauty and soul out of suffering and darkness

The poetry of loss

The highs in a year of music come at the most unexpected moments: I was sitting at a beach restaurant in Spain, earlier this month, sharing a seabass with PP Arnold, former Ikette and soul star of the sixties who’s re-invented herself decade after decade, and released an excellent and varied album earlier this year The Further Adventures of PP Arnold.  We were talking about her gospel roots – she first sang publicly at age 4 – when she suddenly broke into song, with quiet and se

nsual intensity. She did both call and response, looking straight into my eyes, instantly touching my heart with the spirit she channelled so powerfully.

There was a similarly soulful explosion at the small concert Rhiannon Giddens gave inside Wormwood Scrubs Prison in November. A group of inmates, who’d been involved in a song-writing workshop, opened for her, and their mixture of inexperience and deeply felt emotion swept the audience of prisoners and visitors away. Giddens did her thing – a breathtakingly varied range from jazz to old time Appalachian string band music, blues to trance music from Puglia. Her attunement and connection with her musical partner Francesco Turrisi displayed such erotic power and irresistible excitement  that the incarcerated member of the audience were up on their feet.

Live music cannot be beat, even if it’s on film. I was deeply moved by the long-awaited film of Aretha Franklin’s recording of a gospel album in 1972 in front of a congregation, “Amazing Grace” directed by Sydney Pollack and featuring the Rev James Cleveland and the vibrant togetherness of the Southern California Community Choir. The power of the spirit, summoned by song, has rarely been evoked so vividly.

Gospel evolved out of the incalculable savagery of enslavement. The songs’ unequalled emotional depth drew from a multigenerational legacy of suffering and pain. My album of the year is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Ghosteen”, a bold yet always poetic and oblique exploration of grief and slow recovery. His son’s tragic death haunts every melancholy texture of this remarkable album. No guitar band fury, as one might have expected from Cave, but something much more courageous. Synths, piano, voice and little else. This, like all the other music in my 2019 selection, is about healing, transcending the hurt and finding new strength.  

Two more essential albums

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: 11th Street Sekondi

Bon Iver I,I

Gig of the Year

Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, Wormwood Crubs Prison, London

Track of the Year

"Galleon Ship" (Ghosteen, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)


If you like Nick Cave's album, then check out Paul Amlehn's music. It sounds like Nick has been influenced by him.

No it doesn't. Paul Amlehn is a pretentious hack who relies on the success of others in hopes of boosting his own name. Ultimately it just makes him look bad.

Paul Amlehn is a genius

Paul Amlehn is a great artist. You sound jealous. He's exhibited all over the world, has collaborated with David Lynch, William Burroughs, exhibited at the Venice Biennale. How about you? What have you done?

Also, Amlehn has collaborated with Mick Harvey formerly of the Birthday Party and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so yes, this is a connection there. It amazes me how many great artists get called "pretentious" by trolls online, its usually the sign of someone bitter about their own life

First of all, thanks Audrey for your impassioned and vigorous defence of my work and person, that's very kind of you. And thanks for messaging me on Facebook to let me know about this comment thread so that I have the opportunity to respond directly. Thats not something I'd usually do, but, tonight, it seems like a fun thing to do. In regards to the original post, has Nick been influenced by my work, I have no idea. I have, however, myself been influenced to some extent by Nick's work and the work of his collaborators, Mick Harvey among them, but that was largely in the 1990s when I was starting out in music. I remember very clearly the powerful impression the music of the Bad Seeds made on my and I loved Nick's lyrics as well. In regards to the other comments here, I have to laugh at the polarized nature of them, on one hand, I am a "pretentious hack," on the other hand, a "genius." To address the first, pretentious is a word that is often bandied about, there would need to be the pretence of something, in other words something I was pretending to be, in this case an artist. I've made a great deal of art, time will tell if it lasts or is of worth, I'll let history be the judge of that. Hack, no, definitely not, a hack is someone who waters down their art to make money and make it commercially viable, I dont make money from what I do, and in point of fact you can't actually buy my music anywhere right now, so in regards to selling out and being a hack, I've done the opposite, what I do is more of a religious practice for me, but, no doubt saying that may seem, God forbid "pretentious," haha. As to trying to make a name from the talents of others, well some of my work is solo work, my writing, my visual art, some is collaborative, my music, and the collaborative work is indeed co-depended on the talents of others as well as my own, but, making a name for myself? Again, if that is something I wanted to do, I would have made altogether different choices in my work, so, that's a negatory to that thesis as well. Whether the work is solo or collaborative, it all comes from God, and that is where the credit and glory should go. And of course, if you find it pretentious or hack work, then theres plenty of other work around for you to listen to. Genius is a nice thing to say, but, like Norman Mailer said William Burroughs, that he was "possessed by genius," if there is any genius in the work and I like to think from time to time there is, its the visitation of genius from God, not any genius of my own. Thanks again Audrey and Doug for taking the time to comment. Blessings to you both. Paul

Paul, I just want to say I am a big fan of your work. You're amazing! From Radosława

I second that! Your work is amazing Paul! I just discovered your visual art on Insta. Have been a big fan of your music for a long time. Your music has been a big inspiration to me in making my own. Thank you.

Hi Paul. I don't know if you are reading these comments, but, I just wanted to say I have followed your work for many years and always been impressed by the force and power of your imagination and the beauty of your work. I agree with the other commenters on here that you are a great artist, and you have inspired me in my own work as well. I hope you continue for many years to come and want to thank you for the inspiration. MIke

Hello Paul, I love your music. Keep up the great work and more power to you. Don;t worry about your one troll in the comments. I laughed at it, the only pretentious thing was the trolling itself. I love Nick's music too, both of you are great artists. God bless.

Hi Dimitri. I almost never google my own name, as you can see by my three year delay in reposnding to your comment. I just saw your comment tonight and want to thank you for it. I appreciated the nice sentiments you expressed. Thanks a lot! God bless you too

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