by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
The opening of “Limbless” gives off a Flaming Lips vibe. But whereas “She Don’t Use Jelly” is full of whimsy and mirth, “Limbless” is that feeling curdled. “There is no space for you and me.” It’s not a celebration of quirks, but an admission that it has to be more than that to be worthwhile. “Limbless” is the opening song on Hangnail and the fact that it’s the longest song on the album is interesting. It’s a wallow in the mess. A song that is comfortable just hanging out. It’s not in a rush to get to the rest of the album. It also acts like a rosetta stone for the rest of the album, introducing the listener to what they will encounter on the rest of the record. The fuzzed out, distorted, warm guitar tones. The rich tone of the vocals and the full band-ness of it all. These songs might have started out as songs recorded in a bedroom in high school but this is not a bedroom pop album.
This is an album fixated on the experience of life in a body. “Limbless,” “Calories,” “Seize,” “Alone in a Crowded Room,” “Chugging Cleaner,” tactile song titles that call to mind ideas about experience. Songs that lash out at the world around them. Songs that expose hurts from being let down time and again by institutions and the people that inhabit them. This all might make it sound rather abrasive and intense, or perhaps a slog through a bog, but the skill of Snakeskin is how melodic and pretty it all is. There are hooks a plenty, and riffs that you will find yourself humming days later. It could even be called catchy.
“Seize” is the centerpiece of the album and a straight up great song. “I can feel my blood flow under the tiles on the floor.” Snapshots of things coming into focus after something seismic occurring. The chorus lifts up and out from it all on a soaring guitar line that calls to mind all the great songs you heard growing up. One that would have easily found its way on to your playlists you made for friends in high school to show that you got each other. No one else may understand what’s going on, but “Seize” does. “Getting lost is easy” the song proclaims. Just let go of whatever it is that you’ve let fester.
“Alone in a Crowded Room” is another standout song that gives voice to these increasingly despondent times. We’ve never been more connected as a people. Devices in our pockets that can connect us to the world. It is any wonder then we’ve also never been more alone. We’re locked up by fear of what the day will bring, will there even be a future to look forward to? It feels like a sad song but it’s also the most beautiful. We’re all “just trying to stay calm and play it half-cool.”
Hangnail is one of the best albums from last year. Before this new year gets fully ramped up and our minds get full blown with whatever 2019 throws at us, it would do one good to slow down, breathe, and spend some time with Snakeskin. This is not music you will want to shed off.