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Blackfield - Blackfield II CD (album) cover




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3.71 | 385 ratings

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5 stars I am a proud member of an unofficial and unrecognized worldwide fraternity of people who revel in sad songs. To be a member one usually has to have experienced gut- wrenching heartbreak at some point in their life but it's not a prerequisite for enjoying Blackfield's music by any means. It's an irony of the cosmos that some of the most gorgeous art is borne out of tragedy as Wilson & Geffen so eloquently express here on "End of the World" when they sing "So many lies turned to songs/like roses who are hiding their thorns." In a nutshell, if you liked what these two immensely talented composers/musicians created on their debut then you will surely be pleased with this one.

The team of Steven and Aviv start things off with one of the best tunes on the album, "Once." It features an unconventionally accented rock pattern, dense guitars and soaring moments from The Downtown Session Orchestra (which will be employed extensively throughout most of these recordings). It's a powerful, driving statement by the singer who knows that no other woman will ever be able to compete with the lost love of his life. He openly tells his admirer "I want you to know/that I could let you go anytime" because "once she would hold me/she was my only/only to love." A lonesome piano melody and deep acoustic guitars lead you into "1000 People," a song that expresses how one can be worshipped and adored by fans but still feel empty and despairing on the inside. The singer admits that it doesn't make a lick of sense to most folks and that there's "no way to understand why I've become the way I am." But some of us know why. It's because he still carries the heartache that no one can see. The smooth blend of their two voices on the chorus is exceptional. "Miss U" is an upbeat tune with acoustic guitars, excellent orchestration and a very catchy refrain. It's about finding out that the embodiment of your pain has moved on and is now in a new romantic relationship but you are still trapped in the same dark place. "Your living another life/it cuts me like a knife/I hope you understand/I'm the one who's left behind," he cries. There's some tasteful piano accompaniment on the 2nd verse and Wilson's guitar lead during the fadeout is perfectly understated.

If there's a low point in the proceedings it's on "Christenings" which describes a chance encounter with a former MTV starlet who is now a homeless street person. It's very reminiscent of where Steven was at (musically speaking) when he recorded the pivotal "Stupid Dream" CD with Porcupine Tree. It's not a bad tune, but nothing really reaches out to touch your soul. Or maybe it's just that so many exemplary songs surround it. "This Killer" is a change of subject matter entirely. The 7/8 verses and dreamy, lush symphonic score create a paradoxical counterpoint for the creepy psychopathic warnings delivered by the protagonist in lines like "don't leave me in the dark/you think you know me well/it makes me laugh/'cos I don't know myself" and "stay inside your home/and hide away before I lose control." The next tune is another highlight. "Epidemic" starts out with just piano and vocal, then Tomer Z's drums kick in with the electric guitar on the 2nd verse before the intense middle section arrives with its big chorale and lavish orchestration. The singer tells you that time doesn't necessarily heal all wounds and, in the case of his broken heart, "don't say everything's OK/don't tell me that it's just a phase/it doesn't help me" and "an epidemic in my heart/takes hold and slowly poisons me/her will won't let me breathe/it comes in waves and bleeds me dry." If you've ever been there you know exactly what he's talking about. "My Gift of Silence" begins with a subtle verse, then the drummer joins in for the beautiful chorus backed once again by the rich symphonic strings (all of which were arranged brilliantly by Geffen). In this tune he's telling his former lover not to feel guilty for leaving him when she sees what a wreck he's become (possibly because it's his own fault that she took off). "Don't blame yourself/don't change yourself/I just wanna be over, you see/and feel numb/don't hate yourself," he pleads.

A 12-string acoustic starts "Someday," a lyrically intriguing song that seems to say that if you felt like an outcast as a child you will most likely still feel the same later on in life even if you grow up to be attractive and desired. It's a devastating realization to find out "no one cares/about that f**king pretty face you have/it means nothing much this life/so find the highest cliff and dive." While the words aren't particularly uplifting, when the drumbeat comes in and the tune fills out musically it sorta counteracts the dismal message. "Where Is My Love" appeared as a bonus track on the debut but it sounded thin like a demo. Here it gets the star treatment it deserves. It's a great tune about disorienting bewilderment over being abandoned by love. Wilson's chiming, wall-of-sound guitars along with the towering orchestration create a cavernous aura. The vocal describes how painful memories can just pop into your consciousness at unexpected times. "The freezing moment when you turned your head and waved goodbye" and "endless fields of emptiness in my dark and wounded heart" are images that speak volumes. If you're ready to stick your head in the oven at this point you might want to skip the finale but you'd also be depriving yourself of another one of the best songs on the CD. "End of the World" has a slow blues rhythm with Wilson and Geffen singing in an octave of each other on the verses and the supremely elegant choruses. They tell of feeling overwhelmed by the human-inflicted horrors of our modern world, resulting in deep depression and demeaning cynicism. "In your room doing nothing/but staring at flickering screens/streets are empty/but still you can hear/joy of children turned into tears," they lament. The tune builds to a crescendo, then the vocals become angry and intense as they shout over dynamic breaks in the music that it's no wonder we seek escape through pill-induced sleep "without nightmares/without any dreams" and request that "If you wake up in hell or in heaven/tell the angels we're here/waiting below for a dream/here in the garden of sin." Statements brutally stark but ever so powerful.

I'm sure my admiration for this album is quite evident and if I described every time that the guitars, keyboards and drums excelled and the sublime orchestration inspired I'd have long since become nothing more than a broken record. I've read where some reviewers have labeled these songs as being "pop." That's dog dookie. Timberlake and Stefani are "pop," my friends, not Blackfield. The tunes on this album have much more in common with progressive rock than with contemporary radio ditties and there's no one making music any better or more meaningful than Steven and Aviv right now. And, while I don't believe it's as emotionally fluent as their phenomenal first album, I still can't give it less than my highest rating.

Chicapah | 5/5 |


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