The new album from Brooklyn’s Skeletons is populated, aptly, by people—in this case, real people—as the disc’s title would suggest. “Walmart and the Ghost of Jimmy Damour” is about a real Walmart employee who got crushed to death in a stampede of shoppers during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. “Tania Head” is about the woman who claimed to be a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, but whose story turned out to be fabricated. “L’il Rich” is about a young man who was shot in the face on a New York City street, died a few days later and was immortalized in graffiti. And “Barack Obama Blues”? Well, that one is self-explanatory. Given the length of the eight songs on People, half of which eclipse the five minute mark, these are almost short story-like narratives about these characters that unspool at a sometimes leisurely pace.
Sound-wise, putting a finger on Skeletons is a little trickier. People was co-mixed by Rusty Santos, who has worked with Animal Collective and Panda Bear, as well as Owen Pallett. So, yes, you do get some free form freak-folk a la Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs, as well as a little of the bombast of Pallett, only without the violins. Musically, too, there are excursions into world beat music, and there’s an overall vibe of late ‘70s Bruce Cockburn on top of all that. Ultimately, this is a freak folk, post-rock, art rock, prog rock mash-up that is complex and adventurous and will leave the listener in knots just trying to decipher all of the influences. Sometimes, the experimentation gets in the way of some of the song structures, and the band is more than proud to wear its repetitious, tribal pounding-esque Animal Collective aesthetic on its sleeve. Overall, though, People is a dense, challenging listen, one that’s grounded in reality and ever so more compelling as a result of it.
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