Album Review: Mitchell Museum – Skinny Tricks [Scottish Fiction]

By Orla Brady

In the midst of a national lockdown, it is no lie that we need to add an injection of creativity into our lives in order to, not only stay sane, but to take our minds off what seems to be an endless flux uncertainty surrounding us. Thankfully, Glasgow-based three-piece Mitchell Museum have just the album to do this. The band’s third album Skinny Tricks is due to be released on the 15th of May, which will be welcome news for fans who have waited three years since their last release, Everett Trap in 2017. Skinny Tricks, undoubtedly, justifies this wait as it features a selection the band’s most innovative and exciting tracks to date, and is truly something to look forward to in these difficult times.

The album opens with ‘The Oldest Instant’ and we are instantly introduced to the strength and intensity that is maintained throughout the entire album. At the beginning of the track, we hear faint voices as the instruments appear to rev up before travelling into a haze of sound. The band’s frontman Cammy Macfarlane shared that the album features various edited snippets of sound from Whatsapp and Facebook videos taken by the band’s friends and families. The aim was to transform these clips into one instrumental sound, with ‘nephews as synth chords, and mums as percussive loops all over the album’. This is heard clearest as ‘The Oldest Instant’ begins. However, the track soon develops into an experience of juxtaposing layers of sharp sounds and hazy vocals which float alongside a steady indie-rock beat.

‘Footsteps 101’, the second single from the album, which will be released on the 17th of April, follows a similar structure to the opening track. It resembles the style of a mainstream indie track due to the repetitive beat and vocal style, however the band are fully capable of combining this with their own unique, experimental sound. In each track, particularly this one, the band do not follow a solid structure, meaning that they cannot be defined by one genre. This highlights the band’s talent and ability to shift styles not only during an album, but also during a single track.

The strongest, and most unique track, on the album is ‘Grandfather Tapes’ – a disjointed, extravagant and somewhat challenging listen due to the robotic and mechanical way in which the instruments are used. We are presented with high pitched, screech-like sounds, which directly contrast Macfarlane’s vocals. It makes for an eerie and unsettling listen, with repetitive lyrics in the style of a hypnotic chant. ‘Sunday Documentation File’, however, stands in contrast to ‘Grandfather Tapes’. It features delicate piano and harmonic vocals, which highlight Macfarlane’s impressive range. This track previews a different side to the band, one that is intimate, gentle and exposed, as opposed to harsh and vibrant. And it must be said, Mitchell Museum have the ability to succeed in both styles.

Another talent which Mitchell Museum showcase throughout Skinny Tricks is adding power to their musical crescendos by contrasting them with quiet, tender moments. This takes place during the tracks ‘Observation Room 6’ and ‘This Is 18th September’, where the songs begin by luring the listener into a false sense of security and introducing themselves as stripped back, ballad-style tracks, until we are violently hit with a wall of sound. The band know how to keep their listener interested – by challenging us and continuously reeling in our attention through fearless experimentation with original sonic conceptions and compelling juxtapositions, both vocally and musically.

Skinny Tricks ends with the track ‘Alex Kidd’ – a track which displays a heavy rock-influenced beat and steady weave of gritty, raw sound. However, in its final seconds, the track is stripped to bare orchestral sounds, whilst the instruments wind down and conclude the journey that we embarked upon in the opening seconds of ‘The Oldest Instant’. This ending symbolises the quiet, deserted and peaceful aftermath of the wonderful sonic explosion that is Skinny Tricks.

Published by orla_brady

I write things about music for The Music Files Blog and isthismusic? Always open to review new bands/artists wherever you're from and whatever you do. I also write articles for The Glasgow Guardian and The Indiependent and dabble in creative fiction writing.

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