By Tom Reardon, December 2019 Issue.

For the Giving issue, we give you three records that are new and either made by an icon or an icon-in-training. Each has some great moments, and there is some room for at least one to grow, but there is still a little something here for everyone. Enjoy the holiday season friends … we have a lot of music to talk about in the new year. Send suggestions to tom@echomag.com.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Ghosteen

Nick Cave’s metamorphosis into becoming John Cale is almost complete. Before you go all, “Hey, wait, blasphemy!” just remember that without John Cale, there would probably be a vastly different Nick Cave and I love John Cale as much as any Welshman (or in my case, a Welshman) can love another Welshman so it’s a compliment. Since we’re at the 20th anniversary of the concert Cave did with Cale and the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde where they covered a bunch of Velvet Underground songs (YouTube it, brothers and sisters), it’s fitting to make the comparison. Of course, Cave’s body of work is enough to make a grown man weep and a young man swoon, but Ghosteen is a thing of beauty. “Everyone has a heart and it’s calling for something” is one of my favorite lines of any song from 2019. This line from “Bright Horses” sort of sums up the entirety of Ghosteen. If you’re heart is longing for something, and many of ours are, this is a record you can curl up with and feel okay about the longing. In fact, it’s kind of the perfect record for what passes as winter around here in Phoenix. It’s a little grey, at times, but often warm and full of the type of musical storytelling Cave fans love to sink into on a cloudy day. I honestly can’t pick a favorite song here, so listen to them all and thank me later.

King Princess – Cheap Queen

What a lovely record. As the kids say, Cheap Queen is “super chill” and I must imagine that somewhere Prince is proud. It’s not overt, but this record oozes the influence of the Purple One. It also would make the perfect soundtrack to a Ryan Murphy show that wasn’t necessarily scary but was maybe about a young lady who was ready to take over the world slowly punishing those who wronged her all the while taking care of the people she loved like a champ. That’s a lot to take in, sure, but Cheap Queen is a lot to take in even when it goes down so easy. King Princess herself has such a beautifully sultry yet sweet, innocent yet sex kitten-y voice that you can easily forget she is also an amazing songwriter. There is not a weak moment on this record although the room for growth for King Princess is a trifle overwhelming. I think this young lady is only scratching the surface. Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and the like — bow down, bitches, there is a new sheriff in town. She’s hot, she’s queer, and there is nothing to fear except that we’ll have to wait awhile for her next record. The bow she ties with the last song (“If You Think It’s Love”) on Cheap Queen is fucking sublime. Did I say this record is lovely? Fuck me. This record is amazing.

Jeff Goldbum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra – I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This

There is an urge here to talk about what it would be like to spend an evening sitting on the piano bench next to Jeff Goldblum as he plays piano jazz with his band, which is appropriately named The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.  I’m not sure I could adequately describe what a heady experience that would be, but I can only say that Goldblum is a kind of God and to be in his presence would be riveting, to say the least, and probably a thorough education in what it means to be odd and delightful, all at the same time. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This is a fun record and Goldblum’s band is made up of some quality players. I particularly dig the bass riffs by Alex Frank and Joe Bagg’s organ work (get your mind out of the gutter) is super groovy and upbeat. Most of the guest vocals, there are several, are nice, as well, although Miley Cyrus almost singlehandedly destroys the record with her take on “The Thrill Is Gone” right smack dab in the middle. Yuck. What were you thinking, Jeff? Bury that dreck next time. Luckily, Fiona Apple’s vocals on “Don’t Worry About Me” just wash away the bad taste of Cyrus a couple songs later. The instrumentals are pretty darn swingin’ and nice, though, and a perfect backdrop for your next cocktail party or day of light dusting and furniture polishing. Goldblum does sing the last song, “Little Man, You’ve Had A Busy Day” and as you would guess, it’s Goldbum-azing!

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