AOTY 2021
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree
Critic Score
Based on 36 reviews
2016 Ratings: #1 / 947
Year End Rank: #10
User Score
2016 Ratings: #7
Liked by 51 people
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The Guardian

On Skeleton Tree, the Bad Seeds sound shattered, barely capable of holding themselves together.


This is not an album for the rest of us; it’s a reflex reaction to a torment most people will thankfully never have to endure. It goes back to that old instinct of self-preservation: just as a shark must keep moving, so an artist must keep working, even in the face of unimaginable loss.


Skeleton Tree is meant to be a record for everyone, a naked, honest depiction of true grief in musical form ... This stands as possibly his greatest achievement, as much a sorrowful exploration as a loving sendoff only for his fans, but more importantly, for himself.


Even by Cave's dour standards, Skeleton Tree is a tough listen, but it's also a powerful and revealing one, and a singular work from a one-of-a-kind artist.


As from an unspeakable event a remarkable record has come. One that sits amongst Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ best. Skeleton Tree is full of grief, but full of heart too.

No Ripcord

Skeleton Tree is the sound of feeling and not expressing sorrow. It’s something unexplainable, a feeling you can’t quite place into words when you’re still decompressing.

Crack Magazine

What is mined here is an exhaustive yet cathartic coalescence of one of the toughest human emotions as musical art. An astounding achievement.

The Independent

It can be a sad, sometimes harrowing journey, though never less than compelling.

The Telegraph
Almost despite itself, the album's arc of emotion moves towards salvation, the mood gradually shifting from uncomprehending despair to a more manageable sorrow. The title track concludes with a pained admission of survival. Rarely has the simple phrase "it's all right now" offered such sad consolation.
Record Collector
There are no conclusions drawn or hinted at, no useful signposts. It’s the beautifully resigned sound of a failed search for redemption.
Slant Magazine

Cave and the Bad Seeds have been responsible for a lot of great albums, but nothing they've ever released matches Skeleton Tree's sonic cohesion, consistent front-to-back quality, or gut-level resonance.


There are no more stories on ‘Skeleton Tree’, no more fascinating tragedies designed to inflame the imagination. There is just Nick Cave, stripped to the bone and robbed of a future. It’s impossible to turn away.


Skeleton Tree ... isn’t something listeners can likely dislodge from their minds anytime soon ... There’s something to be said about Skeleton Tree and its starkness, which is as familiar as life and death, an elegy, and a hell of a thing to forget.

This is a record that exists in the headspace and guts of someone who’s endured an unspeakable, inconsolable trauma.
The 405

Whether we want to explore grief or learn to live with it, Skeleton Tree provides a sagacious guidebook.

Northern Transmissions

Simultaneously eulogy, love song, and meditation on trauma, it often feels like Cave is grasping for air, especially near the midpoints of the album, where the sadness seems almost insurmountable.

Spectrum Culture

Like this year’s other great death-infused masterpiece, David Bowie’s Blackstar, Cave’s latest is both an avant-garde benediction and a striking push forward for a constantly advancing artist.

FLOOD Magazine

Skeleton Tree is unquestionably a document of staggering loss. But it’s also a testament to the beautiful ways in which human beings bind together in the direst of moments.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Skeleton Tree brings you in and lets you find a path of your choosing and it will let you live with, or move on from this album when it is the right moment to. But you will be marked by it.

Classic Rock

When real, life-changing tragedy strikes a master of dark musical arts, masterpieces can be made: Lou Reed and John Cale’s Songs For Drella. Bowie’s Blackstar. Sufjan Stevens’s Carrie & Lowell. The Bad Seeds’ sixteenth album, Skeleton Tree.

The Line of Best Fit
Death and loss have always been topics mined by Cave, but this may be the most visceral and powerful portrait of those feelings he’s ever painted.
Under The Radar

This is music so alive, real, raw, and occasionally frightening, that it forces you into its grip for its almost 40 minute running time, refusing to let you go.

Consequence of Sound

Throughout the record, Cave moves in and out of focus, though always clearly to his own ends ... As an artist, he needed to release the record in just this way in order to process his pain. Skeleton Tree was released for us, but it’s for him.

Rolling Stone

Although Cave still writes safely from the perspective of characters on Skeleton Tree's eight songs, the grief on each track is undeniably and uniquely his own.

The Skinny

Never hesitant to reach into the depths of himself and his times, this is his deepest journey yet, his own katabasis and nekyia – Cave's journey to the underworld to speak with the dead.

NOW Magazine

On much of Skeleton Tree, it sounds as though the Bad Seeds are doing their best to stay out of their frontman's way. It's an album of pure, direct emotion.


Skeleton Tree offers little solace, but as the Bad Seeds’ 16th album, it gives the listener an experience that is unshakable.


‘Skeleton Tree’ fractures genres and style, but always seems to snap back to that sense of fragility. By keeping things stripped back Nick Cave might have created his most open album to date.


Skeleton Tree is one of the most apt examples of a man's grief being put to wax that anyone could imagine.

God Is in the TV

Skeleton Tree is beyond brave. It’s a raw, frank, open wound of a record and you get the impression that, far from Cave having to force himself to write and record these songs, on the contrary it’s the only way he knows how to deal with the grieving process, and he frequently falls over himself in a rush to get the words out.

The Needle Drop
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds return with one of the most despondent albums in their discography.
The Observer

It is impossible – unnecessary – to tease out what was written before and after the event, but what is immediately striking is that Skeleton Tree isn’t actually all that different from your pre-existing idea of a latter-day Cave album.

Drowned in Sound

In the canon of Bad Seeds albums Skeleton Tree is immensely difficult to pin down. With my Cave fandom hat on I cannot help but feel this is a noticeably inferior record to its immediate predecessor, and one that is less powerful on early listens than the likes of Tender Prey, The Boatman’s Call or the chronically underrated No More Shall We Part.

The Arts Desk

Nick Cave may have acquired a reputation for delving into those dark and frightening places at various times over the last forty years but Skeleton Tree is definitely the real thing and a more brutally honest reflection of the worst of possible times would be a rare find.

I just want to listen to this in a sensory deprivation chamber. Or listen to this while floating in space. Or be in the heart of a volcano, whether it be an active or dormant one, with this playing through my headphones.

I want to listen to this in the dark. I don't want to see anything, I just want this to fill my ears. Fill my head. And I want to be alone.
this is
immensely silent...
yell the bleak sadness
in me...
Was gonna give this a 60 but then Anthrocene and Distant Sky fucked my whole day up :(

This is some sad shit for real.
just banger after banger tbh

"Most of us don't want to change," says Nick Cave in Andrew Dominik's documentary "One More Time With Feeling". "But what do you do when something so catastrophic happens and you change?" It's all "Skeleton Tree" which is summed up in this simple but dizzying question: Faced with the most terrible tragedy a man can experience, the death of his own child, can we remain ourselves? Can we escape ... read more
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Added on: June 2, 2016