Album Review: Hand.Cannot.Erase by Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson Hand.Cannot.Erase Released March 3, 2015 Kscope Music

Steven Wilson
Hand.Cannot.Erase
Released March 3, 2015
Kscope Music

Joyce Carol Vincent died when she was 38. She died with the television and heat running in her London flat. Two years later, her body was discovered, the heat and the television still running. It would be easy to write-off Joyce as some recluse, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. She had friends. She had family. Everyone just forgot her.

It is this sad story that Steven Wilson uses as his concept for Hand.Cannot.Erase, an album about loneliness, the fading of relationships, and the hope of getting together with family. While Wilson isn’t telling Joyce’s story, in the biographical sense, he is presenting the basics as little pieces of his protagonist’s life.

You can be someone’s child. You can be someone’s best friend. You can be someone’s sibling. And you can be forgotten. Maybe you want to reconnect with friends and family, but “the years pass by like trains.” That’s the message of Hand.Cannot.Erase.

It took me three weeks to find this album. Yes, I could have ordered it on Amazon, paid a few extra dollars for shipping, and had it in a few days. That’s not what I wanted though. I wanted to get that little thrill that comes from picking up something new and unknown, going home, and listening to it. I had to travel 20 miles to find and Björk’s new album Vulnicura.

The is a gorgeous sounding album. As a multi-instrumentalist, Wilson is amazing. Wilson boldly displays his influences, with 70s progressive rock taking center stage. While most of the music is very good, if not excellent, much of it also seems familiar. “3 Years Older” sounds like Wind and Wuthering era Genesis with a little Yes thrown into the mix. “Regret #9” features a Moog solo that sounds like something from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. “Home Invasion” sounds like King Crimson. I found myself doing these comparisons a lot throughout the album.

Ninet Tayeb. Photo courtesy http://www.ninetayeb.com/en/photos/11

Ninet Tayeb. Photo courtesy http://www.ninetayeb.com/en/photos/11

Wilson’s voice is fine, but unspectacular. It doesn’t stand out like a Jon Anderson or John Wetton, but neither is it grating. Fortunately, the album features Ninet Tayeb’s lovely voice on “Routine,” and Katherine Jenkins does a great spoken word performance in “Perfect Life,” my favorite track on the album.

If it sounds like I didn’t care for Hand.Cannot.Erase, that’s not the case. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it. Rarely does musicianship of this level get a chance to shine. Wilson’s talented and, as a whole, this is a very good album. But I do think it is getting too much praise by reviewers. The songwriting is not always strong and many of the songs sound a little too much like Wison’s influences.

And I recommend it, especially if you enjoy ambitious music. Wilson isn’t making a pop album or a set of dance tunes. He’s presenting a concept album about a regular human being who died and was forgotten. In a musical era where it seems like we are in a race to the bottom, I have nothing but respect for what Steven Wilson is doing in Hand.Cannot.Erase, even when the end result is less than perfect.

Rating: 4 out of 5


©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Violently happy Icelandic pixie Björk is hurt, and she’s not afraid to sing about it

Björk Vulnicura Released:  March 24, 2015 Label:  One Little Indian

Björk
Vulnicura
Released: March 24, 2015
Label: One Little Indian

It might be time for Taylor Swift to shut up with the chest-beating, I’m-the-queen-of-the-break-up-song routine. Björk’s new album Vulnicura is about more than superficial heartbreak. Throughout the hour-long concept album, she tells a tale of unfulfilled emotional needs, hope that someone will change, and the pain, not only of breakup, but of the end of the family as a unit of love.

The first three songs are about the breakdown of a relationship. “Stonemilker,” the opening song, Björk presents a relationship nine months before the end. She want to be shown “emotional respect,” for her needs to be acknowledged and for her and her lover to “synchronize our feelings.” In “Lionsong,” she expresses hope that the relationship can be saved. Björk’s voice is full of vulnerability when she sings “maybe he will come out of this loving me/maybe he won’t.”


“Black Lake,” a ten-minute long song about the actual breakup, is heartbreaking.

“I am a glowing shiny rocket

returning home

as I enter the atmosphere

I burn off layer by layer

Jettison”

Our violently happy Icelandic pixie has been hurt. She’s not afraid to sing about it. More importantly, she’s not afraid to show you her wounds.

I haven’t heard anything with this level of emotional power in a long time. This is a mature set of songs about breakup and the consequences. In “Family,” she asks “Is there a place/where I can pay respects/for the death of my family.”

“There is the mother and the child

Then there is the father and the child

but no man and a woman

no triangle of love”

Sorry Taylor Swift, while it’s easy to sing that we should all “Shake It Off,” it isn’t that easy.

This is the cover once it is slid out of the acetate cover.

This is the cover once it is slid out of the acetate cover.

This is Björk’s best album in a long time. Her voice is full of complex emotions and beautiful, even when the emotions are harrowing. Her voice reflects her feelings in each song. The music is electronic beats and a powerful string section. This is progressive music and requires the listener to sit down and listen. It is not party music, or background music while people talk about their last visit to the Olive Garden.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.