Highly-touted British band Band of Skulls serves up finely-honed neo-retro rock and alt-folk American-style with an album that is split evenly between classic rockers with a glam edge that strut and kick with keenly kinetic, stop-start rhythms, sharp, gritty guitar riffs, and exclaiming vocals, and contemplative, folky numbers with bittersweet, yearning vocals. Russell Marsden (guitarist, vocalist) and Emma Richardson (bass guitarist, vocalist) trade vocal lines on most of the songs, with Marsden’s lean, briary tone harmonizing with Richardson’s limpid, dulcet register.
A definite 1970s rock and 1960s folk vibe emanates from the album, but this relatively young band sounds fresh, lively, and fully in command, with clean, precise production of graceful melodies and elegant to energetic instrumentation. The band amps it up with a tautly-thumping, loping tempo and synchronous tambourine taps on “I Know What I Am”, along with Marsden and Richardson’s pointed vocal interchange that strikes vocal sparks and converges on the chorus. Marsden tenderly emotes on the verses of the slow-burning rock ballad “Fires” as Richardson’s voice glows with longing exaltation on the refrain.
The alt-folk “Honest” is spare and quietly riveting with Richardson’s delicate, melancholic vocals ribboning and ascending with gently-picked acoustic guitar as she sings “Try to understand the time you’re burning.” “Blood” goes the classic rock route with dual vocals shadowing each other, hand claps, tambourine taps, and deeply grinding bass lines. The numerically-themed “Patterns” swaggers with a rhythmic tug contrasted by the glossy, but hurt ache of Richardson’s vocals and then ends with cymbal smash and fiery guitar riffs.