If you’re going to make a record like Skeletons, of intricate guitar work, shimmering soundscapes, intimate, yearning vocals and bruising lyrical vignettes, then the chances of comparisons to Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley, or both are reasonably high. New Cross based singer songwriter Alexander Wolfe doesn’t really sound like either, but what he does share with those two visionaries is a keen sense of subtlety — the ability to draw back from moments of potential dramatic overplay in favour of distilled intensity.
For a start, there’s the subject matter. Wolfe composed much of Skeletons in a half-world between insomnia and frantic sleep, getting up in the middle of the night to scribble down images and lyrics that contained lots of references to bone, teeth, skeletons, blood, horses dying — the kind of material you might expect from an early Guns N Roses album (which is not necessarily a bad thing, incidentally).
In Wolfe’s capable songwriting hands that world is transposed, creating songs that speak of dreams and metaphors that wind themselves into distinct narratives. Tracks such as Skeletons, Fangs and Milk Teeth relay a kind of confusion, desperation and honesty that finds its release (musically) in moments of startling simplicity.
There’s also a great cover of Neil Young’s Don’t Let It Bring You Down, which starts off in a symphony of menacingly bleak noise before dropping to just voice and guitar. A cacophonous leap into the sublime — in many ways that’s what this album is all about.
Review by: Rachel Devine
photo credit: Flam Photography