Before becoming distracted by Kendrick Lamar’s sensational To Pimp A Butterfly, I was in the process of mulling over Ghostpoet’s recently released album, Shedding Skin. I would now like to return to this record and give it the credit that it undeniably deserves. It is quite some time since the record was released, but I am still enjoying this incredibly coherent and well thought out album.
Shedding Skin, Ghostpoet’s third full length release, sees him turn to an aesthetic that is firmly rooted in an everyday, even mundane, British reality. From the instruments used right through to the idiomatic eccentricities of the English language that the vocalist exploits, there is no escaping the fact that the album has a distinctly English feel to it. The fact that Ghostpoet has combined his undulating lyrical style with a guitar-centric band set-up has enabled him to create an album that feels extremely (a)live. This live feel creates a personal, intimate and engaging atmosphere right from the outset.
A few years ago I saw Ghostpoet play live in newcastle; he was being supported by Alt-J. Alt-J have since become enormously popular, but they have not, to my mind, maintained the raw and dynamic energy that they transmitted at that gig. Whereas in their debut album the band had cultivated a minimalistic and beautiful sound that saw the drums cut through the mix and, along with some distinctive vocals, really define the group’s sound, they have since fleshed out their approach and thus (in my opinion) lost part of their minimalistic appeal.
Ghostpoet on the other hand, after his more electronic Some Say I So I Say Light album, has turned to a stripped down approach that really allows his songwriting prowess to take pride of place. For me, the drums on the album are a real highlight. They’re well recorded and provide the album with some great grooves and some exciting and occasionally chaotically jazzy variations.
Not only does the album have a real sense of sonic coherency, but it also has a thematic and lyrical thread that really ‘ties the room together’. Ghostpoet has previously been quick to say that people shouldn’t see him as a ‘poet’ just because the word features in his artist name. However, I believe that this album brings his poetic sensibilities to the forefront.
For example, the song entitled ‘Better Not Butter’ can be used as an example to demonstrate what I feel to be the central theme of the album; a desire to elevate the status and portrayal of everyday realities to a more sublime place. Not an everyday staple spread, but a step beyond. However, one can’t have one without the other! Ghostpoet therefore builds his album around stories about relationship breakdowns and the constant ebb and flow of mood swings and bills that need paying. In another song, ‘Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me’, Ghostpoet and Lucy Rose celebrate everyday transience and romantic failures with the repeated phrase ‘it’s just your forgettable’. To make a song about a relationship that never gets off the ground is to take an unsensational narrative and regard it as a beautiful example of humanity in action.
Anyway, enough rambling from me. My favourite track from the album has to be ‘X Marks The Spot’, whereas the only song that I was initially unimpressed by was ‘That Ring Down The Drain Kind Of Feeling’. For me, this song lacks the build quality that the other songs from the record have, and deviates somewhat from the live aesthetic that is otherwise uninterrupted.
I heartily recommend you check this album out, and I hope this review gives you some food for thought!