Since his debut album in 2011, Ghostpoet has proven himself a challenging artist. His music straddles boundaries between hip hop, electronica, and down-tempo. Equal parts rapper and spoken word artist, its hard not to hear artists like Buck 65, Saul Williams, Astronautalis, or Sage Francis in his music. On his third album Shedding Skin, Ghostpoet sheds his electronic strong hold in favor of a live band.
The choice pays off immediate dividends with opening track and lead single “Off Peak Dreams.” Upbeat, shuffling drums set as the backdrop for Ghostpoet’s baritone rhythmic talking in his British accent. Ambient use of a reverbed guitar, sullen piano hits, and a strong bass line round out the track’s instrumentation. Where “Off Peak Dreams” succeeds is in its energy. But much like the act Shedding Skin, the album is not an energy-filled process.
Thematically, the album is about loss; song titles like “Yes, I Helped You Pack,” “That Ring Down The Drain Kind Of Feeling,” and “Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me” illustrate that fact. The album’s titular track is a slow burner beginning with bass and minimal guitars, no drums. While the instrumental sounds like the beginning of a moody Death Cab for Cutie song, Ghostpoet repeats the track’s chorus “simmer down;” the irony is not lost that it is the album’s most subdued track. Although on first listen, the track may seem almost boring the repetition of the chorus becomes mesmerizing with subsequent listens, like a mantra chanted by a yogi.
The fact that it is the titular track is fitting because it is a microcosm of the album. Shedding Skin is not always exciting but it is a grower. With every listen new pieces standout and develop meaning. It goes from something banal and transforms into an album that is catchy purely because of its pacing and repetition. While Shedding Skin may not be an album for everyone, for the patient listener it does pay dividends.