The SKYS, a five piece outfit from Oklahoma, features Wayne Allen's music and lyrics, and the production talents of Will Bradford. Allen, who led the underground jam stalwarts, Green Lemon, and Bradford, who has played with the Seepeoples, bring a varied sonic pedigree to the SKYS. Allen and Bradford share producer credits with Will Holland for "Small Dreams in an Elevator." This album, with its sonic exploration and varied moods, has a lot of different facets and will leave the listener wanting more. The band spotlights Wayne Allen and Will Bradford on guitars, keys, vocals, beats and sequencing, with Will Holland on bass, Danny Marino on drums, and Brooke Binion on electronic beats and sequencing as well. The band creates an interesting dynamic with their arrangements, blending sounds that remind of Beta Band, the Postal Service and the Shins, and infusing them with the jam sensibility of Lotus and Perpetual Groove. As these songs reflect a large variety of influences, the sound of the the Skys is hard to pigeonhole. I have found these tracks to be alluring, beautiful, even somewhat mysterious. Although it is sometimes difficult to assess the value of an album before it "ages," I have found the tracks on this album to be gratifying and addictive. This has to be one of the more unique recordings I have heard in my year of working for Home Grown Music, and I've had the opportunity to hear lots of them.
The album begins with the loops and meanders of "Bad Guys." This song depicts "life in a fishbowl" (in a figurative sense) and utilizes excellent imagery to tell the story. The music sways, heaves and undulates over Allen's wistful lyrics. "Heavy Eyes" feels nostalgic and carefree, despite a spirit of reluctance that seems to guide the vocals. I find comparison to other bands to be a less desirable mode of description for these reviews. However, certain songs just scream for simile or metaphor, and I feel that about "Dirty Weather." The guitar, loops, and emotional honesty reminds me of the early days of Perpetual Groove (think "TSMM") and this song skips along to a feverish, satisfying ending. "Turtles" feels like some modernized Pink Floyd B-side with its layered vocals and sequencing; the track transports the listener away in a wash of wistful feedback. My favorite song on the album is the sparsely populated, but incredibly evocative "Driver." The song is defined by subdued guitar, vocals, and a sense of melancholy. The lilting beauty of this track reminds me of the Shins, and feels like some missing component to an unrealized movie soundtrack. The relative simplicity of "Driver" is juxtaposed against the sonic layers of "Animal." This song saunters then fades into a wash of loops and sequencing. The album closes with "Different Faces," utilizing a methodical beat, interesting effects and vocals as it ratchets forward to its conclusion.
The overall effect of "Small Dreams in an Elevator" is quite satisfying. The SKYS employ a nice mix of wistful lyrics, technological blips and beeps, and intelligent musical choices to create an album that is charming and elegant, yet mysterious. I have seen comedians who declared that you always want to "leave the audience wanting more," and that seems to be this case with this album. The 8 tracks contained on this release provide a nice introduction to The SKYS, and leave a favorable first impression. With repeated listens, the album lodged itself into my subconscious, and I would find myself liking the album more with each listen. In fact, when "Different Faces" ended, I often found myself wishing there was at least one more track to discover. This album is defined by an eclectic blend of songwriting, musical experimentation, and elegant simplicity. "Small Dreams in an Elevator" succeeds on many levels. As a debut release, it indicates there is much more to be heard from The SKYS and I look forward to the discovery.
- by J Evan Wade