Almost as delicate as glass, and hand-drawn like a book of fables, this is The Skeleton Dead. Even the name promises such fragility of music, albeit in a Blaise Pascal sort of way.
The Skeleton Dead are Tom Sharples and Claire Wakeman. “Formed in London in the summer of 2010, they write songs on classic themes of love, seafaring and finding porn hidden in the woods.” (It’s high time someone did.) Sharples handles guitar and lead vocal detail, while Wakeman carries most of the background vocal weight, on occasion singing lead. Sharples delivers in a frank baritone prose that has earned inevitable comparisons to Leonard Cohen. Wakeman’s support is ethereal, illusory. Perfect for the theme and the folk/alt-country terrain.
Tracks are fleeting (again, think Pascal), often shorter than four minutes, some weighing in under three. The debut most succeeds when Sharples puts his guitar pick aside: the penetrating, almost flamenco-inspired fingerwork lifts tracks like “Gather Up Your Clothes” and “I Get So Lonesome Without You” high above the traditional folk template. “Scrambling Into the Night” is pure Barcelona: unfinished gothic cathedrals, tiny and expensive appetizers, locals correcting you on your grammar.
Those songs that break away from the duende ethic (say, “A Nautical Theme” and “Are You Going To Overreact”) tend toward the cosmic, drawing attention back to the duality of the project name: the skeleton, physical, and the dead, spectral. The effect is striking, and it doesn’t matter whether or not it was intentional, because it works. “Lock the Doors” may be the only track that simply doesn’t: the literal guitar riff too unwavering, the electric undercoat unnecessary. Try instead the surrounding material, the adagio “Keep Your Eyes to the Ground” and the kinetic, restorative “Down By the River.”
Read more at the links below, and stream “I Get So Lonesome Without You” at bottom of page. A significant fall debut.