Aesop Rock
Skelethon


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jacob Royal STAFF
July 16th, 2012 | 243 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Walk into the light.

Aesop Rock hasn’t ever truly met his potential, and this can be attributed to disharmony in his discography. The New-York-born rapper loves strong beats as much as cerebral storytelling and stream-of-consciousness lyrical play, but his problem’s always been balancing the two. Labor Days bolstered abstract lyrics that had a spring in their step, but that were done a disservice with the album’s dry production that offered nothing new. None Shall Pass featured great production, but tracks that failed to come together as a coherent whole. Despite the flaws, though, each new Aesop release has always involved a high degree of hype, partially because we’ve all been waiting for the album that we know Ian Bavitz can make. His skills with production, his playful flow and vibrant lyricism all point towards a bombshell record encapsulating all of the man’s attributes. Aesop fans have been crossing their fingers behind their backs since the release of “Zero Dark Thirty”, silently hoping that Skelethon is the record where all the pieces fit just right.

Skelethon is the most natural Aesop release in years. There’s a wide variety of ideas at play throughout the album, but never does the display of versatility feel forced. For instance, one aspect of the album that’s immediately noticeable is how it features many tracks that are among Aesop’s greatest. “Zero Dark Thirty” features an ominous beat that stands out as being remarkably memorable, the true sign of a great pick as first single. The song’s the equivalent to strolling through dim alleys in Chinatown, the sinister atmosphere pervading your imagination and carving shadows onto the walls before your eyes. Don’t get me wrong, though; “Zero Dark Thirty” is only one of the bombshells that Bavitz has included on his latest release.

One important quality about Skelethon is that it’s defined by its organization. Its tracks span across many different styles - this requires a thoughtful tracklist to capture all the right moods. The album begins with ambition, an introduction that’s airy and saturated in reverb. This is more than one would expect from a prelude of Bavitz’s ilk, a sign of how much the lyricist believes in his latest offering. Cloudiness revamps itself into self-assurance shortly after, “ZZZ Top” possessing a funk-tinged swagger that comes together from one tom roll to the next. Aesop seems more comfortable in his own shoes than he’s ever been, in these key moments that jump out from the get-go.

The subtlety and blatancy swirl together in an impressive fashion, but what’s even more endearing is the other areas that the record covers. During the middle of Skelethon, Aesop tinkers with different textural soundscapes as he pleases, even devising a two-part song in the mix. This can be viewed as where Bavitz falters a bit, in that “Crows 1” is too leisurely for its own good. The beat is diced so thoroughly that it’s hard to pinpoint a purpose, much less a reason for the concoction to be included in a two-parter. “Crows 2” is a stronger offering that offers memorable hooks through oriental leanings and foreboding themes, and sure, it’s more natural. Overall, though, these moments of the album come across as the product of a man trying a bit too hard, taking interesting turns but not necessary ones.

It’s important to note that Skelethon occasionally constricts the listener, only to let loose moments later. Immediately after the Crows tracks is the hilarious “Racing Stripes”, which is a success just because of how laid back it is. Dichotomies like these are common on the album - while there aren’t a lot of weak moments, the ones that do are sandwiched by the unforgettable ones. An obvious example is the meaningful turn that the album takes during its home stretch. “Saturn Missiles” is arguably the pinnacle of Aesop Rock’s career, encapsulated into a track about as huge as its title would lead one to believe. This air of importance that surrounds the last three tracks is what ultimately makes the album leave such an undeniable footprint in Aesop’s discography, because he’s never taken himself quite this seriously. And isn’t it refreshing?

The most exciting aspect of Aesop Rock’s newest full-length is that it satisfies during its runtime, and this is a bigger step than one may assume. Ian Bavitz has always had a knack for creating unique hip-hop, but the following he’s amassed over the years seems to have been founded upon anticipation over all else. We’ve all been wanting him to create multiple tracks of the caliber of “Daylight” and “None Shall Pass”, longing for the musician to do something consistently great. See, the trouble’s always been that we Aesop fans have been living in the future. This is why I stress that Skelethon is an album based entirely on the present. The promises made at the beginning of “Leisureforce” are maintained all the way until the conclusion of “Gopher Guts”, a denouement to an album we knew would surface someday.



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user ratings (394)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2012


10363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9 | Sound Off

This review came together as scraps and pieces - I got home from Comic-Con this afternoon, and have been studying this album a lot over my trip. I've had so many thoughts on it, and recorded most of them as best as I could on my voice memos. Never been so thankful for an iPhone as I was in these moments.

The album's streaming here: http://youtu.be/CYNBOAoXReQ

LifeAsAChipmunk
July 16th 2012


4854 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Omaha strikes again. Yet another artist to add on to my already gargantuan "listen to in the future" list. *sigh*

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2012


16789 Comments


Labor Days bolstered abstract lyrics that had a spring in their step, but that were done a disservice with the album’s dry production that offered nothing new - on the other hand, None Shall Pass featured great production, but tracks that failed to come together as a coherent whole.

Reads a little awkward, and is probably too long.

Skelethon is the most natural Aesop release in years. There’s a wide variety of ideas at play throughout the album, but never does the display of versatility feel forced or unnatural.

I don't feel like you need the word unnatural in that last sentence, considering you just said it was natural in the previous sentence.

Nice review though, keep up the good work!

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2012


4453 Comments


I've had so many thoughts on it, and recorded most of them as best as I could on my voice memos. Never been so thankful for an iPhone as I was in these moments.

I use that as well and the "notes app" for reviews and film/script ideas, I have hundreds recorded. You never know when inspiration or ideas are going to strike. Good review, mate, it flows pretty naturally. POS

BirthRite
July 16th 2012


1318 Comments


music sounds terrible but good review

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2012


10363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9 | Sound Off

:] it'd definitely be worth it, and honestly it could afford to get moved up that list quite a bit! I'll post a song you can check out, and you can see if it's your kinda thing. My incredibly long review also does that, but I'm insanely nice.

"Zero Dark Thirty" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dbd4h1kaFlY

elephantREVOLUTION
July 16th 2012


2784 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review, pos.

MMX
July 16th 2012


4838 Comments


sweet review, pos'd

Digging: Rancid - ...And Out Come the Wolves

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2012


10363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9 | Sound Off

Sowing's the best! Thanks a ton for pointing out those sentences. I get lost thinking inside my head sometimes. x)

Paperback, thanks a ton man. It's definitely helpful, seeing as a lot of my biggest themes here came to me in the airport, or in other moments where I didn't have access to a computer. I mean, my whole trip was without my computer so I had to do a lot of work outside of the usual.

Thanks guys!

MMX
July 16th 2012


4838 Comments


sweet review, pos'd

MMX
July 16th 2012


4838 Comments


FUCK TRIPLE POST

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2012


10363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9 | Sound Off

Hahaha. You just wanna bump my review, which is just fine.

Is your avatar the next Weeknd mixtape? Sounds like a stupid question, but I just hadn't heard anything about it yet.

MMX
July 16th 2012


4838 Comments


Maybe I do, maybe I don't you don't know me like THAT
& No it's just a custom cover for The Weeknd's ep "The Noise"

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2012


10363 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9 | Sound Off

Ah, I see. That's what I get for not following his music anymore..

klap
Staff Reviewer
July 16th 2012


10545 Comments


you were in san diego and you didn't even call

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

kingsoby1
Emeritus
July 16th 2012


4951 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

very nice review. aes rock is one of those guys that is an amazing featured rapper on the odd track here and there, but it's just difficult to take in a full album with those scientifical mult-syllabics.

This is probably my favorite track he's on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME9cHn6j88o

Apollo
July 16th 2012


10365 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very nice review, should be featured imo

POS and I love this, although I don't think this sounds like Atmosphere's WLGYLYPTSG,
this is a lot darker and a lot more complex

Tyrael
July 16th 2012


20948 Comments


gud 1

Digging: Azealia Banks - Broke With Expensive Taste

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
July 16th 2012


23976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

so excited to hear this, i have high hopes. the fact that silent gives this a 4 means it must be out of this world good. nice review too, as usual. contrib promotion perhaps?

Digging: Marketa Irglova - Muna

chambered49
July 16th 2012


1727 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

nice review sir



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