Review of Shedding Skin Album by Ghostpoet

Obaro Ejimiwe cut his teeth on widely successful, Mercury nominated debut 'Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam' - a sleepy answer to the UK's frigid urban music scene by a very promising producer and vocalist. A collection of ornately produced beats that capture not only the tone, but the thoughts that peruse the mind during moonlit wanderings around estates, high-streets and motorways.

Ghostpoet Shedding Skin Album

'Shedding Skin' comes as Ghostpoet's third album and surprises us all over again by this time murmuring his heavy-eyed lyrics before a live band. Proving that his creativity is not limited to the boundaries of one type of sound, 'Shedding Skin' spans many areas of rock as the canvas for Ghostpoet's sleepy social commentary.

No stranger to getting his pals involved, Ghostpoet enlists guitarist Joe Newman, drummer John Blease and bassist John Calvert as the bones of his band while making space for the brooding, soulful Nadine Shah, Belgian jazz singer Melanie De Biaiso, Lucy Rose and Maximo Park's Paul Smith.

Opening track and lead single 'Off-Peak Dreams' rides at a quick pace, aqueous guitars wiggle around Ejimiwe's languid vocals. Ghostpoet's lyrics relay much of the commonplace - of penny pinching and the many facets of stress alongside a working-class struggle, the eternal workload of ultimately unnecessary errands that comes with working to pay bills. He retains his signature optimism amid these things, 'please believe me, it's just bills and tax and bailiffs/ you can have it but life's alright, I guess, if sweetened up'.

'Be Right Back, Moving House' is the album's closest thing to a ballad. Joined by Paul Smith, Ghostpoet sings a hook about baby-step progress in a complicated world. The track sparse drum and string arrangements are reminiscent of The National's 'About Today', one of the bands Ejimiwe professes to have been listening to while working on this album. Others include Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and TV On The Radio, to give some idea of influences at play.

Ejimiwe's waltz with live instruments is explorative of not only rock styles, but delves into soul and jazz styles too, most notably on 'That Ring Down The Drain Kind Of Feeling'. Nadine Shah's sensual vocals over thick guitar chords evoke a smoky bar in a dark city. Ghostpoet's verses denote the feeling of losing any progress made after a break-up in a chance encounter with a re-boyfriended ex. The love themes continue on 'Sorry My Love, It's You Not Me', driven by what could easily be one of Peter Hook's basslines, the track explores two people's differing instinctive responses after a one night stand - disappointment, discomfort, disappearances.

If Ghostpoet needed to prove he could segue into the realm of live band performance, he certainly does so; 'Better Not Butter' bursts with sharp guitar riffs and punchy drums, Ejimiwe's echoed vocal hooks hang in the space above the instruments, suggestive in tone and execution of Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon - if she had been a drowsy Londoner. 'The Pleasure in Pleather' is perhaps the album's instrumental highlight. Bearing hints of nineties post-punk and post-hardcore styles, bright guitar bounds in and out over wild drums that climax in a feral, jump-about energy.

Ghostpoet's musical output represents something quite refreshing for modern music - originally lumped under "alternative hip-hop" and presumably now warranting "alt-rock" labels. Ghostpoet is simply a musician of unrestricted creative scope - it doesn't matter whether his vocals constitute rapping or singing, simply that he has a voice; closer 'Nothing In The Way' returns to Ghostpoet's heartwarming optimism in the face of cement streets and looming financial woes.  

Littered with nods to working class life - Shedding Skin' demonstrates Ghostpoet's uncurbed creativity and insight, offering his familial social commentary over well produced tracks that are effective and thought-provoking.


Chris Canavan

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