'Criticism' by Snakeskin Shoe Review - Album Impressions #2

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Welcome one and all to another album impressions session!

This time, we've the pleasure of dissecting music by "Snakeskin Shoe Review," a genre smashing band hailing from Scotland.

I've been kindly gifted Snakeskin Shoe Review's album, "Criticism," and I'm all set to experience it.

Below you'll find my impressions of each of the album's tracks as I dive into SSR's pop-leaning, vintage sound.

Enjoy the ride and be sure to pick up a copy of their album on their website.

You can also listen to these tracks on their site as well, so give that a go!


Bring It


Charismatic combination of modern mixing and retro vibes.

Definitely upbeat, yet subtle in harmonic complexity. Guitar licks chime in here and there throughout the song - finally opening up into a crunchy solo at 1:20.

The Beatles influence is particularly evident in the vocal delivery, and the lyrics flow like thoughts. James mentioned this song being a lens of sorts into his thought processes.


Empress


Pop rock, but more meaningful than it usually is, with harpsichord sounds on high meshing flawlessly with the rest of the track.

It feels lighter and carries a musicbox tone - owing the intensity of its chorus to contributing voices stationed at the edges of the stereo field.

A very satisfying outro with a ragtime, cowboy-esque feel tops it all off. Like stepping through saloon doors into another state of mind...



Hi Five


Less lively in the upper end of the frequency spectrum, yet leagues more fun.

I can definitely sense this song's implied levity. It plays through comedic scenes like a comic strip from a discontinued newspaper; you're left wanting more.

Love the warmth and saturation of the song's mix, but I'm a biased saturation snob.

As for its meaning, this song is apparently the tale of an Alfie type of character. Think Michael Caine, not Jude Law.


The Undeclared War


The Undeclared War was written about two female friends who were both leaving their long terms partners in the same weekend - one did, one didn't.

Restrained enough to shock me back into a semi-serious mood, this song is more than a standard pop-guitar tune.

Strumming panned left and sporadic keys panned right frame the singing guitar and much more literal singing singer artistically.

The choral declaration of fairness in love and war apparently bears reference to the relationship woes of two women looking to leave their long-term partners in the same weekend.

The tune is appropriately somber - playing out like musical nightfall with an ending of "Close your eyes, my darling."


Hank Quinlan


I can't help but appreciate tambourines. :)

Beyond the tambourines, this song offers up beautiful, minimalist harmony between the rhythm, bass and vocals to brilliant effect.

Fit with just enough bells and whistles as to get its point across, this track may be my favorite of the album.

The chorus is great and particularly mellow, well-suited to the slower tempo of the track. It brings to mind Al Stewart, though it's far more organic.


Tijuana Bible


The most commercially-appealing track so far; "Tijuana Bible" boasts of immediacy and simplicity.

The halting bass-line pairs nicely with the guitars - accentuating each note favorably and lending a push/pull effect to the composition.

The vocals are immediate in their placement; front and center in sonic space, and the lyrics are poetically complex - apparently owing some of their inspiration to "A Whiter Shade of Pale."


The End of the Affair


Almost an ABBA track (apparently by design), but a bit wordier.

Lovely Spanish guitar work heralds the arrival of shadowy, moist vocals - deepened in a pool of reverb.

Very believable 70's fare. Perhaps a resurgence of the style is in order?

The throwback sound almost makes this more of a classic than some actual classics of the era.


Let Me Be Next


An unabashed attempt at humor, coined by band-mate Steven Dunn, with musical results.

The walking bassline seems apt to symbolize the roving thoughts that might have given life to the song.

James assured me of this song's self-indulgent nature - describing it as a "distillation of Scottish humour (...) with a knowledge of it's own ridiculousness."

You can't help but love the chorus, "Let me be next, when you want sex..."

Laughs follow its completion, though it's hard to hear them over your own.


Shackles


Peppy and drum-driven, this song reminds me of the Beatles more than any of SSR's others.

James wrote me this was the band "channeling the Everlys," though I've an inkling the album's final song comes much closer lyrics-wise.

In "Shackles," the bass makes the changes beneath the shuffling guitars and sustained vocals - grounding the tune as a whole.

Its liveliness is infectious, but I'm sick with nostalgia now for a time I never directly experienced.


New York 1963


A nice, gentle, retro ballad, this song oozes mid-60's influence - swapping poppy guitarwork for heavy, saturated piano and the fleeting melodic hum of an intermittently present saxophone.

The vocals are distant and vaguely psychedelic, yet clear and entrancing. "Wake up, little Suzie," they plead over punctuated keys.

Experimental sounds of a hectic city street walk us out, in boots of Spanish leather, through a hazy memory of Dylan and Suze Rotolo's mutual sorrow.

A crestfallen love story told at day's end, "New York 1963" makes plenty of knowing references to the strained relationship it is written for.


Much thanks to James Kerr and SSR! To you, dear reader, thanks and don't forget to throw your cash at Snakesin Shoe Review's album on their site.

Read about Camikaze's "Burden" next.


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