Skeleton stumbles in like that drunken roommate who’s coming down from whatever high had been pushing the blood through his veins only hours before. “Race You,” the album opener, starts off delicately and awkwardly, with the charm of that roommate we are always defending, saying, “That’s just the way he is; leave him alone, or get him another drink.”
Skeleton, Figurines’ second, is a dirty indie-pop record. Christian Hjelm’s voice is the awkward cousin of Isaac Brock‘s and probably the music’s most salient characteristic. The song craft is almost as distinct, stringy guitars building up the versatile songs, at times taking cues from Built to Spill, other times racing ahead like the poppiest, most energetic Buzzcocks or Pavement riff. There is even a touch of the Harvest-era Neil Young that inspired a whole legion of indie rockers, amongst them Built to Spill and the Flaming Lips.
Like a pop band with a guilty conscience, the members of Figurines barge out of our stereos and demand to be noticed, shouting at us in discomfited, trembling voices. This makes it easier to notice all that glimmers and forgive the playful mistakes of Skeleton. It doesn’t hurt that the record is never predictable, the strengths of the musicians explored in different arenas as the album progresses. “The Wonder” sees Figurines at a Buzzcocks-esque peak, offset by Hjelm’s nearly disconcerting voice singing, “You know it takes time to get it together for a long time.” “Rivalry” and “Back in the Day” are reflections of Modest Mouse and Neil Young in the waters that separate Copenhagen from the Swedish mainland. “Other Plans,” the album’s standout, plays with typical garage-rock structures, infusing them with an almost U.K. surf feel and Pixies-like confidence.
If more of Skeleton‘s songs had found a way to affect as perfectly as “Other Plans,” it would be one of the year’s best records. And despite the fact that not all of the songs are as engrossing as my favorite one is, and that there are some trips and stumbles, I’ve found it difficult to tire of this record. It has sunshine in its music that isn’t clichéd, a range of songs that never let the progression slow down or stagnate, and an array of emotional explorations that are refreshing and accomplished.