Album Review
Mick Harvey - Sketches From the Book of the... Album Cover

Mick Harvey - Sketches From the Book of the...

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Mick Harvey - Sketches From the Book of the Dead
Record Label: Mute Records
Release Date: May 5, 2011
Formerly the lead guitarist of Nick Cave's backing band the Bad Seeds, Mick Harvey has made quite the career for himself. However, his career up until his latest solo outing, Sketches From the Book of the Dead, was reliant on Cave. He had been working with Cave since their first group the Birthday Party. 36 years is a long time, but finally Harvey had to split. Citing personal and professional reasons, he left the Bad Seeds.

Sketches From the Book of the Dead is Harvey's collection of stories and memories of those he knew who have left the physical world. The album's title is the perfect introduction to this deep, dark music. As "October Boy" begins, the music hits like a chill autumn wind with fallen leaves blowing.

The album is uniformly bleak, with death looming over every turn. The arrangements vary slightly, though acoustic guitars are the album's blood. Every song is sparse, conjuring the autumnal scene on the album's cover. Produced by Harvey himself, he appropriately fits his emotional songs with sounds that speak very well to the funereal mood. Folk guitars, quiet piano, very light accordion touches, and the occasional distraught guitar weave together these tales of remorse, suicide, and sadness.

In truth, it's a difficult album. It's an emotional journey that plays like a pilgrimage to gravestones and places where ashes were scattered. The weight of emotions throughout "The Ballad of Jay Givens" and on through "That's All, Paul" is not always easy to listen to. It's music that's hard to digest. One can only use the words "bleak," "sad," and "depressing" so many times to describe what Harvey is on about in Sketches.

That being said, the record thankfully ends with the hopeful, lighter "How Would I Leave You?" and the slightly raucous "Famous Last Words." Though the former is positively excellent, the latter is somewhat of a throwaway. "How Would I Leave You?" sees Harvey coming to terms with the stories he tells before it, while "Famous Last Words" sounds like an excuse to throw in some of his louder tendencies. Thematically it might fit, but the song's sound doesn't.

Sketches proves to be a well-mapped, excellent album. Difficult as it might be, Harvey's music is more rewarding with each listen. And, this reviewer got away without one comparison to his former boss, Nick Cave.

Recommended If You LikeNick Cave -- The Boatman's Call, Nick Drake, Iron & Wine, folk

This review is a user submitted review from iancat87. You can see all of iancat87's submitted reviews here.
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