Gayle Skidmore is someone we featured a while back and her new album “Sleeping Bear” is released today. It’s a cool blend of piano and guitar led moody pop rock that is easy to listen to and great to keep on repeat.
“Sickle in the Shade” opens the album with a quick paced and sharply poised track. Full of open piano chords for verses and melodic guitars for the choruses, it gathers momentum throughout before coming together in the middle section with some big arpeggios and clever chord building sequences. There’s some great lyrics too including “What I hear is what you didn’t say”. “Don’t Let Me Go” is more punchy on the bouncy piano and drums. What it does show is Gayle’s ability to start out with a certain sound and then merge it into something else as progressively the song moves away from pop to rock to its guitar finally. “Whisky & Cigarettes” is a cheesy organ laden track that injects a bit of fun and sass to the mix too. It’s a tightly woven catchy number that uses Skidmore’s vocals to playfully tease to the 70’s inspired sounds.
The feel changes completely for “Tourniquet” which introduces strings and plenty of minor chords into the mix for one of the best tracks on the album. It’s got a simply forward motion to it and it’s so full in the speakers, it feels beautifully produced and very majestic. Gayle doesn’t need to push her vocals much here because the music does all the hard work for her. “Pendulum” really reminds me of Coldplay. What I love about the track is that guitars and drums are played like a ticking metronome and so the whole package fits together. Again minor chords and rising vocals are here and there’s some gorgeous moments throughout. “Little Bird” takes Gayle’s vocals and phasers them so she sounds like she’s on another plain. The banjo really pushes the track separate from the rest so far and gives it a vintage tone and quietly taut. Piano and tuned percussion then comes to fore in “Field of Marigolds” which is a whimsy swaying number that is most definitely coloured in sepia.
Title track “Sleeping Bear” finally breaks the almost exacting 3 minute 20 second track length of the album to date with a five-minute folk rock track. The verses are witchy and dark as the guitar plucks and swirls before blasting into full band for some strong choruses. Gayle shows off her ability to switch from highs to lows in an instant and it’s an excellent piece of stadium rock. “Technicolor Ghost” switches tone to light banjo led folk that is given the cute xylophone treatment. It’s warm and inviting and then holy when the organ and a male choir join in. It transforms a simple but cute ditty to something far greater and its stunning. “Come Back To Me” returns to where the album started appropriately – a rock track with strong piano and guitar interplay. There’s plenty of fun quirks and motifs throughout and feels somewhat bitter-sweet now that we’re coming towards the end of the album. However “The Wilds” lives up to its name with speedy piano and dramatic strings doing their ethnic best to provide drama. Gayle’s vocals become emotive instead of her usual smooth delivery and it touches shades of Kate Bush in the Lionheart / Never For Ever era. A real different feel from the middle of the album. Things do end in Skidmore fashion with “Zombie Heart” which plays to her strengths by delivering a well crafted three-minute hook in a way that’s emotive, effective and memorable.
Gayle Skidmore’s “Sleeping Bear” is a sleeper hit. She has a real knack of taking the kind of simplicity you find in a pop song and twisting them to fit her adult piano rock tropes. It’s never full on, it’s never lacking – it’s perfectly pitched and after a few listens it will stay with you. Potential for one of HPM’s top 10 albums of 2013 right here.