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Blue Nile Song Reviews


Walk Across the Rooftops (1984)

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The Blue Nile

Walk Across the Rooftops 9.5/10

This track has a distinction of being starkly minimal but atmospheric and compelling nonetheless. The sound is absolutely crystal clear --- and almost disturbingly so. Yes, I already told you about that story. This is certainly a detached song that took me quite awhile to get used to --- The pacing is dreadfully slow, for a start. The instrumentation characteristically features some fake violins --- they're playing pizzicato in the verses and they play regularly in the chorus. The drum beat doesn't seem to be sublimely interested in what the violins are doing --- it's just keeping a beat because it has to --- nothing in terms of fancy fills or anything. (Ah, this was the New Romantic era, wasn't it.) Some atmospheric sections inserted throughout make this seem even more detached. To make matters even stranger, there's a disturbingly deel bass guitar chiming in at regular intervals. These atmospheric sections are sort of the same idea as those almost Middle Eastern flavored diversions in Kate Bush's "There Goes a Tenner" except this is more minimal. Yes, this song is difficult to get into, but it honestly didn't take me very long. I was intrigued by it at the very start, so I actually wanted to be interested in it. Besides, they make it pretty easy on me, because they add on instrumentals as the song moves along --- including a crystal-clear piano, beautiful horns and other sound effects. This is really quite a nice composition... You don't have to be complex to make an intriguing composition, you know.

Tinseltown in the Rain 10/10

Picking up the pace to good effect! This is your typical herky-jerky New Romantic beat, but it has great flow. Wonderful music for those crystal-clear yuppie stereos! This relatively simplistic but crystal clear instrumentation is undoubtedly classy with plenty of variations to keep this fresh throughout its six minute running length. That's a unique attribute to a band --- they make a six-minute song that doesn't seem too long. I love this song, and the melody and chord progressions are wonderful. These guys were good songwriters --- and that's extremely evident with this piece. Excellent.

From Rags to Riches 8.5/10

Well it's hard to follow up that previous track, especially if you're going to return to writing slowly paced tunes. But this is nothing if it doesn't have class. Again, the crystal clear instrumentation does nothing but intrigue me. Here they experiment with calculator synths whilst Paul Buchanan sings over it. It seems pretty pretentious, but the great aspect about it is that it manages to be fairly intriguing despite it. The song has definite development even though it does admittedly come off as monotonous at times.

Stay 9.5/10

This is more upbeat and mainstream --- though certainly still unique! It has a regular drum machine backing beat and the tempo's a little faster, which certainly helps it. Again the sounds are just perfect. Still pretty minimal but it's anything but monotonous. You can hear the sounds beautifully. From the crispy drum machine sounds to the haunting piano and the gloriously dark bass-line. This song has quite an atmosphere that just captures my attention. This is very beautiful.

Easter Parade 8/10

Everybody who says The Blue Nile is boring definitely has a point. I even think they're pretty boring. It's becoming passe to point out every time that the sound is crystal clear --- but that's another one of its intriguing aspects. But this thing is so slowly paced and keeps on repeating the same chord sequence that it could be enough to drive some people insane. I'm willing to give it plenty of credit for being pretty creepy and spaced out though --- and, well, it certainly doesn't drive me insane. The atmosphere is very trippy.

Heat Wave 10/10

Needless to say, I like the songs with the steady backing beats the best. I'm merely human, you know. Well, here is another delicate composition with at atmosphere that absolutely captures me. It's very slow paced, which is enough to drive many listeners nuts. But I'm pretty sure at this point, these listeners already tuned out. I love the melody --- especially the chorus manages to come off as extremely resonant for some otherworldly reason.

Automobile Noise 8/10

Don't expect this album to go out on anything particularly exciting. This final track is another slowly paced song with a number of sound effects inserted throughout. This is one of the least intriguing compositions of the album, but it's still fairly interesting in its own right. They do a good job of changing the beat around every once in awhile to keep this engaging --- but that still doesn't seem to be enough to keep myself from slowly drifting away from it.........


Hats (1989)

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Hats

Over the Hillside 9.5/10

I do love the way this album starts. This is a pretty and atmospheric song. It's slowly paced, but if you're in such a mellow mood, it'll probably strike you perfectly. It's fairly minimalistic especially at the beginning, and it sounds pretty similar to the work in their debut album. The instrumentation consists of a new wave rhythm guitar, a bored bass guitarist, a simple drum beat and Paul Buchanan's vocals. Very subtley, some pretty violins come around from the background, which is soon accompanied by a horn pretty horn. The melody doesn't change much at all, but it was engaging enough to warrant the repetition. At the end, Buchanan's vocals get a tad more dramatic, but without even getting vaguely pompous about it. This is a nice song.

Downtown Lights 9/10

Here is a moderately paced song that relies on the synthscape to keep the song fresh sounding instead of changing around any melodies or rhythms (which may have been more recommendable). The trudging drum line never changes and the chord progression isn't that interesting to me --- but if you concentrate on the instrumentation you'll probably feel pretty spaced out by the whole thing, and it'll be engaging to you. Or maybe it'll bore you to tears. But it's difficult to admit that the instrumental crescendo at the end is wonderful and has an amazing texture.

Let's Go Out Tonight 9/10

This sounds much more refined than their hopelessly slow songs from the previous album. "From Rags to Riches" had a similar pacing but the instrumentation was silly and seemed more like a synthesizer experiment. It's easy to feel bored by this, but the atmosphere is extremely refined and enchanting. The smooth synthscape is vivid and textured, and there's a great push toward the end. This is a highly pretty song to sit through! The five minute running length was just fine. Six minutes would have been overkill.

Headlights on Parade 7.5/10

They choose to pick up the tempo at an opportune time with this, but they're really starting to lose me here. The running length is six minutes, and that's going too dang far. The atmosphere is quite thick, but it's not nearly as compelling as the previous songs. The melody is OK, but that wasn't supposed to be what you're paying attention to necessarily. It's the instrumentation! They vary the textures around enough, but they don't do anything to particularly amaze me. They don't change the overall rhythm --- unfortunately --- which might have helped this effort seem fresh upon every new minute instead of more tired and burden with more instruments. The piano solos at the beginning of the song do seem to come off as a bit tacky. ... Now despite the criticisms, I do like this song. Again, there's the nice tendency for them to have a great push toward the end, and there's certainly some value to layering the instruments like that. I just wanted something a little more exciting and adventurous --- like in their debut album, for instance!!

From a Late Night Train 7.5/10

Wow, even the most patient listeners might have a hard time honestly enjoying this. It doesn't do a whole lot. We hear Buchanan singing a relatively simple melody and pretty quiet instrumentation consisting only of a horn, atmospheric synthesizer noise and a twinkly piano plays in the background. No drum beat, guitar or bass whatsoever. In its defense, the atmosphere is very well constructed, and these guys at least weren't tasteless enough to drag this over four minutes long.

Seven A.M. 8/10

A cool beat is featured here with an uncharacteristically distorted bass guitar keeping a modest groove going. There's some world-music patterings with the percussion and an occasional "orchestral hit" we hear towering in the distant background. The melody isn't too interesting to me --- it's the instrumentation that you're going to have to love. Well, I think it's pretty decent actually and this is a marginally entertaining song. It does grow a tad boring, and they don't do much to keep it phenomenally interesting, but this is still nicely done.

Saturday Night 8.5/10

This is an appropriately atmospheric track and a very nice track to end the festivities with. The instrumentation is relatively more bold though the pace is still slow-tempoed. Buchanan gives a wonderful vocal performance that sounds like he's longing for something. The instrumentation is nicely done, and I love the fact that there's an especially effective orchestral push towards the end. It's not a perfect song, and it runs well past six minutes to test our patience, but I like it anyway! Hurrah!


Peace At Last (1996)

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Peace At Last

Happiness 9/10

I like this one. It's a song about happiness and the major off-putting aspect about it is that it's so mellow. Are happy moments supposed to sound like that? ... To answer my question, I suppose I can see that. Sometimes when something good happens to me, it takes awhile to believe it. The lyrics seem to confirm that "theory." The melody is enchanting, and Paul Buchanan delivers a soulful and convicting vocal performance. The song production is captivating, as you would expect if you heard their earlier albums. The atmosphere is quite thick, lush and well-developed. They even incorporate a gospel choir at the end. Yeah, this is a stark contrast to their earlier works --- especially the debut!

Tomorrow Morning 9.5/10

I love this new sound. Just Buchanan singing along with his acoustic guitar and only a light synthscape in the background, which become grander and more built-up as it progresses. This has a steady and regular backing beat, which I prefer over those endlessly mellow tunes from Hats. Most importantly, however, this is hopelessly captivating! I like the melody, and the production is perfect. Songs that evolve like this are the best, in my opinion.

Sentimental Man 9/10

Whoah. Hear this one! The instrumentation is grandiose and superb. It jumps out at me. It starts out rather gracefully, but they continue to layer on the instrumentals to make something that sounds so noisy and thick. What a wonderfully done track! Those hits of the horn synthesizer lend this a towering texture, and the rhythm guitar plucks along beautifully. Buchanan's singing his heart out, especially during a point in the middle, and he has such a beautiful voice. This isn't so much a melodic song, but one that show cases all the instruments gushing out of the speakers. In that respect, it's rather like Kate Bush's "Big Sky."

Love Came Down 8.5/10

This is still quite excellent, but what's missing here is are those glorious arrangements. That's OK, I don't expect them to hit a goldmine every single time. This is still a very well done song with some passionate singing, and an entirely decent melody. Though I'd say it's blander than usual. The arrangements most predominantly features the acoustic guitar, but there's a well developed synthscape as well. Nice.

Body and Soul 9.5/10

Yeah, hear this excellent production! Again, they prove to me masters of sound layering... by the end, there are so many sounds coming out of the speakers, and absolutely nothing seems out of place or too much. Everything from that straight ahead rhythm, those pizacatto strings, the horn hits and a wide array of synthesizers doing their own thing in the background. The fact they managed to pull of something this wonderful sounding can only be explained for the fact that they are audiophile perfectionists. The melody is immediately catchy (so this song is a bit better than "Sentimental Man" in those regards), and once again Buchanan nails the vocal performance. Wow.

Holy Love 8/10

Hah, this starts out with some deep vocal "oohs" as you might expect glancing at the song title. Anyway, this is a relatively brief track and shockingly minimal. After that rather simple intro, there's about a minute worth of Buchanan singing along with a drum machine and a synth-bass. There's an orchestral build-up in the middle but that's not nearly as interesting or well developed as the previous tracks. I will say that Buchanan's vocal performance is very fun --- he's delivering a flashy, soulful performance of the Prince variety.

Family Life 10/10

Back to their mellow roots! Hey, don't get me wrong, I like their mellow roots. This track, especially, is very exquisite. It starts out very well, and Buchanan's continuing to be a wonderful singer with his signature deep and soothing performance. The orchestration starts out rather minimal with a piano and a very light strings in the background. The orchestral build-up in the middle is so FREAKING well done that it surely takes my spirits for a quite a wonderful ride. This is a beautiful song.

War is Love 8.5/10

The vocals aren't quite in their top form this time, in my opinion. He comes off sounding rather dreary and droning. Likewise our audiophile perfectionists are still quite exceptional, but they weren't quite taking this opportunity to deliver their finest work. What's left is the melody, which is quite alright. Some of the hooks are a bit flat, though. This track has a tendency to get dull, but I still appreciate its exquisite and thoughtful nature.

God Bless the Kid 8/10

They're racking on another song that layers on the sounds as it goes along. Again, I really love it when they do that. It lends their music a foward progression that often leads to glorious results, and this song isn't much of an exception. Though I think they did it a little better already in the album. To make matters worse, they really made a mistake at the end when they stripped out the synthscape and faded out with some uninspired funk guitars. Meh.

Soon 9/10

But at least they end it with one of their good old mellow tunes. This is a bit of a throwback to their debut album with some relatively stripped down sounds with lone hits from a trumpet synthesizer. Buchanan's singing some frilly notes in his smooth, low register style. Luckily, there's an orchestral build-up in the middle although the song does seem to end on a more or less inconsequential note. Well, this is a fine closer.


High (2004)

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High

Out on the Weekends B

A perfectly nice little tune! The melody is well-written. The instrumentation is very minimal, which surprises me. Just a very lightly acoustic guitar strumming and a slide guitar goofing around in the deep background. A harmonica is recruited later on. It might have benefited from a little more studio innovation. For example, why does that drummer have to sound like he’s some sort of robot? This isn’t even fun like ‘80s New Romantic music was. What gives??? Anyway, this lack of development cost the song a few brownie points.

Harvest C

I know this is a critic favorite. I listened to this a great number of times and tried to figure out what’s so great about it. I couldn’t find it. This is just a typical country/western ditty and not much better than anybody else’s average country tune. Young sings a very simple, repetitive and unoriginal melody while the boring drummer drums and the bass player doesn’t seem to give a damn. All that said, it’s very clean and tasteful. Squeaky clean. What’s with the ending? Young normally does a fade-out, which is a weak idea to begin with, but he seems to stop playing. What a bummer…

A Man Needs a Maid B+

A little less derivative and boring than the previous two tracks. It opens with some simple, organic piano as Young delivers a number of heartfelt lyrics. (Barf!) He then brings in the London Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra manages to give the song some varied texture, which is very welcome. Brought down from a potential A- for feeling like it was a minute too long.

Heart of Gold A

He would never get another #1 hit! That’s probably a good thing… who likes a popular song? (I mean, Joe Public has horrible taste in music!) But this is a very good song, fortunately. Some nicely done acoustic guitar strumming open the festivities and Young delivers a legitimately catchy melody. The drumming is a bit more involved here than usual, which is to its severe benefit.

Are You Ready For the Country? B+

The very beginning seemed to feature the band gearing up moments before they started playing the root of the song. That’s about the only undisciplined part of the whole album! Also a semi-detached electric guitar can be heard playing in the background, which gives it a nice texture. Somehow, this reminds me of a Beatles song but with a blander melody. Well… I suppose that’s a compliment!

Old Man B+

A banjo? Neat! The song deserves an extra point just for that… it lends the song a perfect sound and texture. I also really like that he swelled the mood for the chorus. It grabs my attention when it comes up! Problems arise when I consider the melody, which has only a single good hook that’s repeated a bunch. Young’s not exactly living up to his “great songwriter” reputation there. A minor nit-picking is there’s an awkward transition at the very end of the song… It’s a small kink, but more evidence that this isn’t a flawless album like it was pretending to be.

There’s a World D+

The London Symphony Orchestra is completely showcased here… no rock or country instruments whatsoever. There are a number of problems I must address, but where to start? … First of all, the style of orchestration is the exact same as an old ‘40s or ‘50s cinematic score except distinctly cut-rate. Secondly, hearing this song develop is less entertaining than watching paint dry (thank goodness it doesn’t take as long). Thirdly, the melody sucks. Fourthly, the clean orchestra sound combined with Young’s voice is like Beauty and the Beast except they killed each other in the end. (The fourth point might have had an unintentionally interesting effect if Young experimented with it more, but he wasn’t in an experimenting mood.) I think I said enough.

Alabama C+

The sounds of crunchy guitar licks are like an oasis to my ears! But what’s with the boring melody? The tempo is frustratingly slow, too. What’s the dillyo? Godfather of grunge lost the kick? LOST THE SOUL?? BORING!!!!

The Needle and the Damage Done B-

Wrong. The damage is almost done. There’s still one track to go after this. This is a two-minute ditty featuring Young singing a boring old melody to simple guitar strumming. This is all fine enough, but he’s actually done folk ditties better than this before. (A live recording, eh? He gets a polite applause!)

Words (Between the Ages) B-

This is kind of OK. Really more than OK. It goes on for six minutes and it’s verrrry mellow and drags on for too long. The melody doesn’t make an impression whatsoever and repeats too much. But then there’s an electric guitar solo in here! For the first time in the album, a guitar solo and it’s a bit of a sloppy one! It’s a little odd considering its context, but it’s a welcome change nonetheless.


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