Five New LP Releases: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Son Volt, Depeche Mode, Marnie Stern, Samantha Crain

2012 was a banner year for vinyl sales worldwide; according to Billboard, it marked the fifth straight year of double-digit growth for a format left for dead by the side of the road, or relegated to the basement of aging white men and their high-end audio systems. The format still represented only 1.7% of all music sales, but growth is always preferable to the dustbin of history or someone’s garage. Vinyl’s resurgence can be attributed to a number of factors, including audiophiles, but a new generation of listeners has also emerged: a combination of hipsters and 25- to 35-year-olds who are curious to hear just how good LPs can sound.

The growing popularity of Record Store Day (April 20, 2013), combined with the surge in new releases from all the top recording artists and labels, has put vinyl back on the map -- albeit at much higher prices, as far fewer copies of each title are pressed. Makers of turntables have seen their business rebound, and some are experiencing genuine growth for the first time in decades. Online vinyl retailer Acoustic Sounds celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2013 -- who would have predicted that, in the era of smartphones and MP3s? Apparently, what goes around does come around. It just sounds better at 33.3rpm.

Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsNick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away

Bad Seed Ltd., limited edition; 180gm LP, bonus 7” single with two extra tracks and album download code

Musical Performance: ****
Sound Quality: ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment: ****

If Push the Sky Away doesn’t sound quite like the band forgot to take their Abilify -- which pretty much sums up the asylum-like Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! -- there’s good reason for it. The departure of original guitarist Mick Harvey has left Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to descend deeper into the murk of human existence; and while not as lyrically interesting as their previous recordings, Push the Sky Away successfully swings back and forth between the weary and the intimate to remain interesting throughout. Cave’s conversational and throaty delivery makes you hang on every word of “Higgs Boson Blues,” waiting for the next shoe to drop. If it feels slightly as if you’re walking a tightrope with Walt White, unsure of how it’s all going to go down in the end, it’s a testament to the orchestration and moody undertone.

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