Recommended Albums #75

Steven Wilson: To the Bone (2017)

Prog god Steven Wilson (some of you want to stop reading right there but I implore you for your own sake to resist the urge) has created, on his fifth solo record, an homage to progressive pop records that captivated  him in his youth.

Echoes of ambitious works such as Peter Gabriel’s So, Tears for Fears’ Seeds of Love and works by Talk Talk and Kate Bush permeate a diverse collection that is more about songs than the album. It’s almost like ABBA meets David Bowie–and how awesome would that have been?

Wilson eschews complex time signatures and paints with brighter colors than on much of his past work. The possible risk? Losing a few of the hardcore proggers from his Porcupine Tree days. The probable reward? Growing his newly multi-gendered audience by throwing them more sonic thrills than challenges. Steven Wilson can make any kind of album he wants. He wanted to go pop-rock. And it’s glorious.

The slow-building “Nowhere Now” hearkens to Wilson’s work with Aviv Geffen in Blackfield, with its dark ruminations on ruination colliding with an uplifting harmony chorus.

“Pariah”, featuring guest vocals by Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb, ricochets between hope and hopelessness, determination and despair:

I’m tired of Facebook
Tired of my failing health
I’m tired of everyone
And that includes myself
Well being alone now
It doesn’t bother me
But not knowing if you are
That’s been hell you see

“The Same Asylum as Before” is simply a thrill ride and the best rock song I’ve heard this year, period. Falsetto vocals. An anthemic and cathartic chorus that may inspire you to explore your car’s volume dial limits. A searing, channel-panning metalesque solo that drops off a cliff into a quiet, almost jazz section…there’s a hell of a lot going on here. But this kind of ambition and dynamic interplay are the particular forte of the many-hatted Wilson. Guitar god, producer extraordinaire, songwriter par excellence…it’s amazing to think prog rock’s current leading light is actually getting better.

“Permanating” puts the exclamation point on Wilson’s foray from dark introspection to buoyant populism. It’s unapologetically joyful–a description I can’t believe I’m applying to Steven Wilson.

But hey, if Steven Wilson wants to make pop prog, or pop rock, or whatever you call this, he will. And he’ll do it better than virtually anyone else can.

 

Listen to: “Nowhere Now”

 

Listen to: “Pariah”

 

Don’t miss: “The Same Asylum as Before”

 

Listen to: “Permanating”

 

See also:

https://edcyphers.com/2016/03/09/songs-you-may-have-missed-574/

https://edcyphers.com/2014/08/10/songs-you-may-have-missed-513/

https://edcyphers.com/2013/10/04/songs-you-may-have-missed-483/

https://edcyphers.com/2013/02/11/songs-you-may-have-missed-329/

https://edcyphers.com/2012/11/14/songs-you-may-have-missed-236/

https://edcyphers.com/2012/10/01/recommended-albums-24-2/

https://edcyphers.com/2017/05/01/songs-you-may-have-missed-614/

Songs You May Have Missed #614

Steven Wilson: “The Day Before You Came” (2014)

Steven Wilson doesn’t exactly specialize in the straight-ahead love song. The Porcupine Tree mastermind and frontman is not typically prone to a tendency to deal in anything so treacly as a lyric that extolls a lover’s positive influence on one’s life.

So it makes sense it would appeal to him to tell the love story in a more emotionally subtle and artistically subversive way–in this case by painting a picture of the dreary routine of life prior to “the day before you came”.

Yep, it suits the melancholy Wilson to a T. Except he didn’t write the song. It’s from his 2014 album of cover tunes. So who is responsible for this devastating examination of an empty existence?

Why, ABBA of course. And it’s not as inconsistent as one may at first think. With hits like “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “S.O.S.” and especially album track “My Love, My Life”, those lovable bejumpsuited Swedes routinely created dichotomous musical clashes of emotional turmoil and musical glee, something Elvis Costello celebrated as he paid unlikely tribute with “Oliver’s Army” in 1979.

Wilson’s reading of the minor key meditation takes it into darker territory indeed.

Video of the Week: Steven Wilson–“Routine”

Animator Jess Cope beautifully evokes the sadness in Steven Wilson’s story of loss, denial and eventual acceptance.

Songs You May Have Missed #236

pain

Blackfield: “Pain” (2005)

I gushed about these guys on other occasions so there’s no reason to repeat all the reasons I think they’re great. But I do want to share another of my favorite Blackfield songs so…feel my “Pain”.

When modern-day prog rock’s leading light, Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, and Israeli pop rock legend Aviv Geffen get together they make a mesmerizing brand of shoegazing catharsis. As I’ve said before, if you can appreciate this kind of thing, you can appreciate that no one does this kind of thing better. Blackfield’s first two albums should be considered classics of their time.

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/10/01/recommended-albums-24/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/02/11/songs-you-may-have-missed-329/

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2013/10/04/songs-you-may-have-missed-483/

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