Shedding Skin isn’t what you’d immediately expect from Ghostpoet. He sets aside his previous two albums’ use of samples and electronics and, instead, focusses on a full band sound. It produces an album that is ultimately a bit hit and miss in places but, when it works, it’s impressive.
The album kicks off with the superb Off Peak Dreams which features an insistent beat and piano chords that underpin the vocals perfectly. The song, like many on the album, sounds live and that really works, leading to an impressive start to the album. X Marks The Spot follows offering a more melancholic feel and introducing Ghostpoet’s rather odd Mark E Smith “uh” inflections at the end of most of the lines. Once you notice this once on the album, you never stop hearing it.
It’s all rather odd. Be Right Back, Moving House is a funny track. It is not what you’d expect at all from Ghostpoet. It comes across like a track by The National or Wilco in their slower moments and, whilst that’s not a bad thing as it’s a lovely song, it’s a bit of a jolt to hear this kind of sound on a Ghostpoet album. I’m not saying that artists shouldn’t try different things, far from it; it’s just unexpected. All that said, it’s a lovely track. The title track comes next, brooding with a Massive Attack like intensity, before the end of a relationship documenting Yes, I Helped You Pack arrives offering one of the album’s high points. This is one of the examples of the new full band feel really working and it stands out.
From here, the album tails off somewhat with all but one of the last five tracks offering anything that stands out from the first six. That Ring Down The Drain Kind Of Feeling pushes the Massive Attack button again, Better Not Butter offers a rockier feel without really going anywhere and The Pleasure in Pleather and closer Nothing In The Way don’t reach the heights they were clearly intended to do. Only Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me captures the spirit of the first half of the record and it feels more alive than the remainder of the second half and is another of the album’s highlights.
Overall, Shedding Skin is slightly unsatisfying but the highs outweigh the lows and, when Ghostpoet gets it right here, he really gets it right. I’d lose the Mark E Smith thing though.