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Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Wayne Hancock, and Absolutely Cuckoo 

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click to enlarge Push the Sky Away CD cover

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

Push the Sky Away

Bad Seed Ltd.

File next to: PJ Harvey, Low

After Nick Cave spent the latter half of the 2000s bashing and growling through his feral, dirty-old-man garage-rock side project, Grinderman — and following the resignation of Bad Seeds co-founder Mick Harvey — Push the Sky Away is an intriguing new direction in the Bad Seeds' 30-year career. The music is mostly hushed and spacious, filled with subtle keyboards, loops, violin and a children's choir. Eschewing the lucid narratives of his past, Cave's new lyrics are often hallucinatory, with cryptic digressions on astronomy, Wikipedia and Miley Cyrus. The aesthetic is dreamlike, weaving through scenes that are beautiful, hazy and menacing. Highlights include the ominous pulse of "We Real Cool," the shimmering, Fender Rhodes-driven "Mermaids," and the gorgeously expansive "Jubilee Street." Push the Sky Away may require multiple listens, but it's a bold work that will confound and impress. — Collin Estes

click to enlarge Ride CD cover

Wayne Hancock

Ride

Bloodshot Records

File next to: Lyle Lovett, Bob Wills

Barely 30 seconds into Ride's opening title track, Wayne Hancock simply stops singing. This is Wayne "The Train" Hancock we're talking about, one of the most garrulous figures from a cultural terrain (alt-country Texas) admired for rhetorical fortitude. In the vacuum left by his uncharacteristic silence, the guitars assume control, taking things deep into Chuck Berry and Hank Williams territory — country blues filtered through the strictures of "Johnny B. Goode" and "Lovesick Blues." Hancock's homespun warble returns, but only after two full minutes of intertwined soloing. Ride's format is thus set, as Hancock continues to spin tales of ex-girlfriends and the open highway, his voice one element among many. The guitarists (plus, on one track, a muted trumpeter) share the headlights, plucking and strumming tight variations on the barebones melodies. Ride is so old-school it feels downright groundbreaking. — Marc Weidenbaum

click to enlarge Absolutely Cuckoo: Minnesota Covers the 69 Love Songs CD cover

Various Artists

Absolutely Cuckoo: Minnesota Covers the 69 Love Songs

Noisome Misdeeds

File next to: Magnetic Fields, Broadway show tunes

Stephin Merritt and Magnetic Fields launched the three-disc 69 Love Songs on an unsuspecting world in 1999, sparking paeans from fans that it was the best release of the decade (or century). Now Matt Latterell has assembled 69 Minnesota musicians to cover the entire album. What's surprising is how good the vast majority of it is. A few get lost in electronic gauze or sloppy-drunk nonsense, but Merritt himself had a few clunkers. Covers by artists like Bethany Larson ("Come Back From San Francisco") and Savannah Smith ("Love Is Like a Bottle of Gin") make you ache to hear more, which is precisely the point. The MP3s are being given away online at 69ls.mn (though a physical release is being discussed) in the hopes that this will spur more interest in the fine Minnesota bands represented in this collection. — Loring Wirbel

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