Exclaim!'s Best of 2013: Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part Two

8. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Push the Sky Away
(Bad Seed Ltd.)

When Grinderman, Nick Cave's swaggering, sardonic rock project, split up on stage, Cave prophesied the band's eventual return "when we'll be even older and uglier." But on Push the Sky Away, his return to his Bad Seeds persona, Cave proves he still has some romance left to give before completely turning to the dark side.

Now approaching his 60s, Cave once again embraces jubilant, soaring choruses, sinister soundscapes and deep, poetic crooning. Push the Sky Away recalls his prettier, gentler songwriting, a sharp step away from his foray into brutish testosterone-addled blues punk. Meanwhile, Cave's right-hand man Warren Ellis once again fills in the instrumental ether in between the commanding vocals. Utilizing an array of atmospheric textures and seductively brooding loops, Ellis' work almost sounds as if it would be more at home on a film score than a rock album.

Songs such as "We Real Cool" take on a decidedly dramatic tone while Cave's oft-eerie vocals provide a jarring cinematic monologue. And while there is no shortage of reflective brooding — Cave has never shied away from stripping off a piece of his own soul for the amusement of his listeners — Push the Sky Away is nevertheless a satisfying record from a band with a near flawless track record. (Chris Morin)