Best albums of 2018: #4 Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”

I’ve been following Spiritualized for well over two decades. I became aware of Jason Pierce’s work in the early 1990s but really dug into it with 1997’s “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”, which some of you may remember hit the number one spot in my best albums list for that year back in May. That album is still considered the group’s high water mark by many (including myself), though they have since put out five more albums, each pretty consistently great.

Spiritualized was formed by Jason Pierce in Rugby, England in 1990 when his band with Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember, Spaceman 3, split up. Their early output sounded like a continuation from the earlier band but very quickly Jason Pierce established his own style and sound that mixed elements of psychedelic rock, noise rock, free jazz, and gospel into something he has called “space rock”. In the twenty eight years since their formation, Spiritualized has only put out eight albums and each with a different set of backing musicians. And though Pierce is the creative force and only constant, he has never sought all the attention, as evidenced by his placement at the side of the stage, just one of the players, when the group performs live. It appears, though, that his new album was completed solo, just him, a laptop, and a handful of hired guns.

“And nothing hurt” was a rumoured release for a number of years, word being that it would be the final Spiritualized album. I was beginning to think it would never come when Pierce finally broke the continued silence by posting on several social media outlets in the spring, teasing images, sounds, and Morse code messages. I pre-ordered the standard edition on Amazon immediately but am now wishing that I busted out a few extra dollars for the deluxe edition. As an album, it’s my favourite by the group in quite some time. It’s the closest Pierce has come to replicating the magic of “Ladies and gentleman” and at the same time, it’s more mature and controlled. It riffs on his usual themes of love, drugs, and religion but there seems to be an added sense here of his own mortality.

“And nothing hurt” is as sad and uplifting and beautiful as you could hope for from a Spiritualized album and you get the sense that this could be the end. But you hope it’s not. Have a listen to my three picks below and let me know what you think.


”A perfect miracle”: “I’d like to sit around and dream you up a perfect miracle”, Pierce sings at the beginning of the album opener. This, over top of the gentle strum of a ukulele and with synths and sampled strings, the hint of happiness. He starts each verse with this very line and goes on to suggest he’d do anything for the object of his affection but then, at the chorus, it is all upended with excuses as to why he can’t (or won’t) see her. It goes without saying that it is all lushly arranged, reverting from quiet to loud, though it never really gets super loud, and Pierce just singing the words sadly and almost grudgingly.

”Let’s dance”: This one also starts slowly and quietly but it definitely feels like a builder, right from the first note. The title suggests a nod to David Bowie but this is Pierce, it’s not a proper dance in a dancehall. Sure, it’s the end of the night and he’s a tired and “lonely rock ‘n’ roller” so he seems to be implying a slow, swaying dance that’s more tight embrace for safety than true movement to song. However, the twinkling keys and light tap on the cymbal do eventually give way to a trademark Spiritualized cacophony, albeit one that feels more controlled. Pierce is tired, right?

”I’m your man”: Along with “A perfect miracle”, “I’m your man” was our first glimpse into this new album and the video released for it showed Pierce wearing a spacesuit, which inferred to me a return to the themes of “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”. The song title, much like “Let’s dance”, feels like a reference to another classic song. Indeed, Spiritualized’s “I’m your man” is like a response or repudiation to the one by Leonard Cohen. Where Mr. Cohen suggests he will be anything that his lover wants him to be, Pierce says he could do all that but if she wants someone “wasted, loaded, permanently folded”, then, and only then, he’s her man. The music is a bluesy, slow dance number performed by a big band, complete with horns and wistful guitar solos, and Pierce is singing at the side of the stage, tie loosened and top button undone, ready to pack it in for the night. Just awesome.


Check back next Friday for album #3. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”
5. Middle Kids “Lost friends”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best tunes of 2011: #20 Florence and the Machine “Shake it out”

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I’m pretty sure I came to Florence and the Machine’s debut album “Lungs” late. I don’t remember exactly when it was but I feel like it may have been around Christmas time, possibly in 2010, because I was definitely in Toronto visiting my mother-in-law with my wife and up late at night, playing around on YouTube. There were a number of videos already available there and I was completely taken in by frontwoman, Florence Welch, and that incredible voice of hers. I got a copy of the album soon after and became quite enamoured with it as well, picking up the comparisons to Kate Bush and Annie Lennox completely on my own. So when sophomore album “Ceremonials” came out in 2011, I was definitely keen to check it out.

What I didn’t realize then and didn’t quite put together until recently is that Florence and the Machine is an actual band. I always thought Florence Welch was a solo artist and that the moniker was just that, a name. But no, Welch formed the band with her friend, Isabella “Machine” Summers, back in 2007 and it was fleshed out to a five piece with Robert Ackroyd, Tom Monger, and Christopher Lloyd Hayden. There has been a few shuffles in and out over the years, the ranks expanding to nine, most of the original band members remaining. With so many hands, it’s no wonder their sound is so big and dramatic, a perfect vehicle to fly with Welch’s aforementioned angelic vocals.

Not counting the promotional teaser, “What the water gave me”, “Shake it out” was the first single to be released from “Ceremonials”, and it’s awesome. I feel like she’s more Annie Lennox here than Kate Bush. It’s old sounding but not at all delicate. No, decadent would definitely be the better word. More Marie Antoinette than Emily Brontë. It’s thumping and clapping drum rhythms and big wall of noise organs above it. It’s glorious singing, both soft and bold, and Florence Welch dancing all over the stage in a big period piece costume, while coquettish ladies in waiting sing behind fluttering fans. The words, too, are just as invigorating, empowering us all to shake off our demons and dance.

Not bad for a song purportedly written while hung over.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2001: #5 The Strokes “Last nite”

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At number five on this Best tunes of 2001 list is the second single off The Strokes’ debut album “Is this it?”. Arguably, this song, the band, and this album were instrumental in plotting the ultimate direction of indie and alternative rock for the new millennium.

The Strokes formed in New York City in 1998. The five piece led by frontman Julian Casablancas recorded a raw and energetic EP in 2001 that started a bidding war amongst the majors. They ended up landing with RCA, who released the debut LP referred to above, a ten song juggernaut that was recorded with the same producer and same DIY ethos as the EP. To say that “Is this it?” generated a buzz is putting it mildly. There was unanimous acclaim. It appeared on everyone’s best of the year list and the band’s name was on everyone’s lips.

I remember them still being a hot item even a year later. It sticks out to me because I made a special trip to Peterborough in 2002 to visit my friends from university. On the morning-slash-early-afternoon after I arrived, the load of us walked down to The Only Cafe for brunch. This meal was particularly memorable, first of all, because it was a unique experience, given the socialist, trust-based business plan of the establishment and its mixed bag clientele, and second, due to “Is this it?” being played whilst we chewed on egg, toast, and crunchy coffee. Pretty much all of my friends recognized the album, despite the varied tastes, liked it and were effusive in their praise of the sound and the excitement with which it polluted the air all around.

“Last nite” is representative of the raw, driven energy, and the immediacy of the album. The production is purposefully not crisp, giving the impression (which is actually correct) that it was recorded live in one take, a loud broadcast from a shambolic garage. Indeed, it succeeds in presenting the band as from another age, finding itself lost in the present day, a time traveller from the past informing the present of its mistakes. Casablancas is a lounge singing Lou Reed, half-heartedly trying to keep up with the song’s pace, and the band is keeping it simple, like pop music, if said pop music were roughly hewn from a rusty old carving knife.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.