Album Review: Ghostpoet – Shedding Skin

By on Tuesday, 3rd March 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Ghostpoet Shedding Skin cover‘Shedding Skin’ is the title of a new LP released by Ghostpoet, the London-based vocalist and electro producer whose debut album ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ was nominated for the 2011 Mercury Prize. His second studio attempt, 2013’s ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’, seemed to fall victim to the all-but-inevitable sophomore slump, but Ghostpoet has regained some lost momentum with this third album, perhaps as a result of shedding the heavy expectations set forth early in his career.

Throughout ‘Shedding Skin’, Ghostpoet (aka Obaro Ejimiwe) matches the smooth groove of the bass with his languid baritone, setting a mood that manages to be at once blissfully chill and delightfully sensual. The slightly warmer feel in comparison to the earlier albums is undoubtedly down to the instrumental arrangements in the recording, which for the first time in Ghostpoet’s studio repertoire include live musicians from his touring band (Joe Newman on guitar, John Calvert on bass and John Blease on drums). The self-produced album also features cameo vocal appearances from Nadine Shah, Etta Bond, Melanie De Biasio, Lucy Rose and Paul Smith of Maximo Park.

‘Shedding Skin’ is perhaps less brash than ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ and less darkly morose than ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’, but it is more emotionally mature, both in its subject matter and its musical expression. One of the more extended tracks on the album ‘Be Right Back, Moving House’ contains several lyrical phrases that seem to get to the heart of what the album is all about, particularly the lines “my heart wants to be free / back flip and somersault / be careless of me / but life gets in the way / my past won’t let go of me / I’m frightened away”.

Opening track ‘Off Beat Dreams’ features Ghostpoet’s trippy beat poetry vocal delivery over stacked piano chords and a softly wailing guitar riff that develops into a fully-realised solo by the end of the track. Title track ‘Shedding Skin’ is more ominously bass-oriented, the foundational groove providing depth under the duet vocals in the chorus “you think you know me / you never know me / simmer down”.

In the grittier musical context of ‘That Ring Down the Drain Kind of Feeling’, the raspy female vocal intones the phrase “I’m back where I started / I’m back where I started again / left broken-hearted / but maybe my heart’s on the mend / then again…”, which leads into the quicker tempo and sharper-tongued lyrics of the next track ‘Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me’. Ghostpoet ratchets up the raw sensuality near the end of the album in the alliterative ‘The Pleasure in Pleather’.

The soaring instrumental arrangement behind final track ‘Nothing in the Way’ leaves the listener with a serene sense of warmth and optimism, which perhaps best captures the underlying tone of ‘Shedding Skin’. Even in the album’s faster paced and more strident moments, the songs have an air of calm self-assurance that comes from experience, both personal and professional. Having shed the skin of early expectation, Ghostpoet has here evolved toward the full potential of his songwriting talent.

8.5/10

Ghostpoet‘s third LP ‘Shedding Skin’ is out now on PIAS. He will support the album release with an April tour of the UK and Ireland; find all those live dates here.

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