Approached as a survey course in modern indie rock, Chad VanGaalen’s sophomore album, Skelliconnection, makes for an interesting listen. From the post-grunge electric guitar riffs of opener “Flower Gardens” and the dance-punk rhythm of “Burn 2 Ash” to the alt-country stomp of “Wind Driving Dogs” and the soaring emo chorus of “Dead Ends,” VanGaalen left few important points of reference untouched when whittling down the hundred-odd songs he’d composed for the project. Unfortunately, it’s only VanGaalen’s proficiency with so many styles and his DIY approach that consistently impress about Skelliconnection (in addition to writing these songs, often using homemade instruments, in his basement and sharing performance credits on the record only for percussion, VanGaalen also drew all of the album’s artwork). But for a few choice lines (he makes excellent use of “ghost” as a verb on “Graveyard,” to pick the best), there’s not much to any given song on the album to distinguish it from its obvious sub-genre counterparts. Drawing comparisons to the likes of Sufjan Stevens (on the banjo-driven “Wing Finger”), Bloc Party (on “Burn 2 Ash”), and The Shins (on the baroque-pop of “See-Thru-Skin”) may put VanGaalen in awfully solid company, but it doesn’t give him the opportunity to establish a voice of his own.
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