In 2018, Jason Pierce released his eighth studio album as Spiritualized, “And nothing hurt”. I remember hearing in advance of its release of how great it was, how it was a return to the sound and scope of their masterpiece, 1997’s “Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space”, and how it might very well be his last album. I was so excited I jumped on it right away, downloading the digital version that was granted me with the pre-order of it on vinyl. Of course, I fell in love with it and it ended up landing at number four on my end of year list for that year, but what struck me the most was how different the album sounded when I dropped the needle to the disc on my turntable.
When “Everything was beautiful” was announced, I was first of all relieved that the fear of Pierce packing it in was unwarranted and secondly, I was determined to wait for my pre-ordered physical copy to arrive before giving any of it a listen. And so I held off on release day, even as I heard once again that this album was the man’s best work since that aforementioned masterpiece, and I was duly rewarded to brilliance and beauty when I gave it a spin the very night the record arrived. It was like a perfect synergy between my ears and my earphones, music and emotion and (forgive me here) spirituality.
Billed by Pierce as a companion album to its predecessor, the two titles taken together form a quote from the Kurt Vonnegut novel, “Slaughterhouse five”, apt considering the songs from both albums were all written and demoed around the same time. This second album, however, has had more time to steep and has the experience of many other lifetimes, these felt even more deeply with all that we have collectively been through in the interim. As great as “And nothing hurts” was and as much as was put into it*, “Everything was beautiful” feels just more complete, more a sum of all of Pierce’s ideas and work, like you can hear pieces of all his career on this album. But this is more a revisit than a rehash, retracing his footsteps in a different set of shoes.
At surface, one might surmise that this album was a throwaway, given that it’s only seven tracks in length. However, it uses every millimeter of space on the record, filling out the forty-five minutes and colouring in the skies in a mass of sound, his sound, space rock. If you’ve never heard Spiritualized’s particular brew of psychedelic noise, gospel, and free jazz, “Everything was beautiful” is just as great a starting point as any of his works. And yes, I would say this is definitely the best Spiritualized record in more than two decades.
The best way to listen to “Everything was beautiful” is end-to-end, all the way through on vinyl but I’m willing here to offer up three picks to lead you by the nose to the prize.
“The mainline song“: When I first saw the title of this track, I immediately thought back to Spiritualized’s second record, “Pure phase”, and the instrumental track that picked up on a theme that coursed through that whole album. This one is different though, more about trains than heroin, and though about half of the track’s six minutes is purely instrumental, we do get into some words. “Sweet heart, sweet light. Oh babe, it’s a beautiful night, and I wanted to know if you wanted to go tell the city tonight.” It’s a track inspired by lockdowns and protests about lockdowns and about finally getting things right. Setting things right.
“Let it bleed (For Iggy)”: “Laboured over these words too long / And nothing to behold / Wanted it to be special for you / But it’s just a song.” Pierce’s ode to his hero Iggy Pop certainly starts off mellow and ventures into delicate balladry, but in his hands, a song is never just a song. The choirs sing and horns call and guitars vibrate. It is about putting everything into it and having faith, perhaps blind fatih, that the efforts will be appreciated. This is about Jason Pierce as much as it is Iggy Pop.
“Always together with you”: Echoes of the title track of “Ladies and gentlemen”, the first track of the album opens with a female breathing the title of the album over space echoes but this time the voice is provided by his daughter, Poppy, instead of his ex-lover, Kate Radley. The similarities don’t end there, indeed, this feels like a sequel, a revisit, but the object is the future and not the past. It is just as epic and beautiful and heartrending. It is six and a half minutes of hope and love, strings and choirs and horns and angels. “If you want a silver moon, I would be a silver moon for you. If you want a unicorn, I would be a unicorn for you. If you want a satellite, I would be a satellite for you. If you want a universe, I would be a universe for you.” The universe would be pleased.
*I remember writing about it at the time that it sounded to me like Pierce was putting his all into it.
In case you missed the previous five posts, here is the rest of the list:
10. Blushing “Possessions”
9. Just Mustard “Heart under”
8. Jeanines “Don’t wait for a sign”
7. The Reds, Pinks and Purples “Summer at land’s end”
6. Tallies “Patina”
5. Suede “Autofiction”
4. Wet Leg “Wet Leg”
3. Beach House “Once twice melody”
2. Alvvays “Blue rev”
You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.