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Thursday 14 September 2023

skittish - Midwest Handshake


It still irritates me that people think of I Don't Hear A Single as a Power Pop site. That was our roots and we still cover some, but over the 7 years we've moved on and we cover what we want. True it is centred around Indie Pop Rock, but we are as comfortable reviewing Prog and Psych and something as wonderful as this album.

Skittish is essentially Los Angeles based Jeff Noller who is a Minnesotan and spent two months writing Midwest Handshake. The influence of the state framed the songs in the mid 1950s, but the musical styles were very different. 

You'd expect some Americana or Country and you get a little of that, but this is essentially a Pop album, a great Pop album. Noller adds the angelic lead vocals of Gracie Huffman on three of the songs which ups the Indie Pop vibe and there is some wonderful orchestration courtesy of Chris Lahn.

The songs are very descriptive, both lyrically and instrumentally. The subjects covered in the words reveal that the concerns were not that different in the mid 20th Century to now, although the mess we are in now is covered admirably.

Noller's vocals are ideally suited to the material, he is as at home with an Acoustic vibe as the Pop Rock and the arrangements are gobsmackingly wonderful. There is also one of the best Pop Rock songs that you will hear this year contained within. 

That song is Mannequin, a melodic wonder of a song sung in a style not a million miles away from Slacker and including a killer chorus and an awesome Riff. Are We There Yet is very Brill Building Piano Pop and Home Team is a cracking opener, moving at quite a pace with some splendid Cello from Jacqueline Ultan and some soothing Brass.

Huffman's vocals are amazing. She gets sassy on Second Act with gentle attitude and handles great Pop Rock on Lowlifes. True Believers is top notch winsome Indie Pop with another killer chorus. All three are a testament to the quality of Noller's songwriting.

Magic Catfish even trends Vaudeville with more arrangement depth, particularly the Brass which dominates the song. Come Around is a great 1970s Piano Ballad and even though I'm not particularly a fan of Country, Easy On Me could just easily change my mind.

I could say more, but will end with one word and that is Magnificent. Midwest Handshake is an easy listen, but don't let that fool you. That easiness hides a mastery of what it takes to make an all encompassing album that is hard not to play again and again.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


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