I must confess; I have something of a love affair with one Mr. Dan Avidan. Dan's work in his synthpop band Ninja Sex Party is nothing short of comedic genius, and has brought me many a laugh. I was ecstatic to find that Dan had done some music before Ninja Sex Party in another duo called Skyhill, composed of himself and Peter Lennox. It's an absolute shame that this project went unnoticed; as of this writing, their last.fm page lists only 163 listeners, a criminally low number for a duo who showed such great potential.
The sound of Skyhill's one and only album Run With the Hunted
sits comfortably somewhere between "gay nightclub music" (a plug.dj user's words, not mine) and the alternative rock of yesteryear, with a strong hint of melodic influence from U2 in the vocals and guitar-work. At just 40 minutes in length, the album is completely bereft of anything that could be described as filler; every song succeeds at its aims, although some are less remarkable than others. Perhaps most remarkable are "Hands on the Water," the opening track of the album, a bubbly (no pun intended) and uplifting alt rock track that contains one of the most memorable and euphoric moments of Run With the Hunted
in its bright and bouncy guitar solo, and the final track "Run With the Hunted," a hauntingly beautiful and suitably epic conclusion to an album that hits just right the spots almost all of the time. Avidan's voice and vocal melodies are absolutely gorgeous and push Lennox's already great instrumental work to even greater heights, lending an emotional force to the music that only the very best singer-songwriters are capable of doing.
The album's acoustic ballad "The City as You Walk" perhaps best exemplifies the album's atmosphere and emotional appeal. With its soaring and heartwarming chorus and the lone saxophone that bounces around the melody, the song reminds me of 70s songs from artists such as Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen that I was constantly exposed to as a kid from my parents. When I listen to Run With the Hunted
, as in the lyrics to this song, I imagine myself walking down a city street at night with headphones on, completely absorbing the atmosphere. For me, listening to music has always been a personal, introspective affair, and Skyhill's music hits the emotional sweet spot.
There are, however, a few quirks here that could have been ironed out. Some songs, like "Glass Doors," attempt a rising, falling, then rising again type song structure, and the transitions between the different sections of these songs are occasionally a bit awkward. In most of these cases, and especially in "Glass Doors" in particular, this can be forgiven, as the awkward transitions give way to the best parts of their respective songs. For a self-produced debut effort, Run With the Hunted
is nothing short of impressive; the production, instrumentals and vocal-work all seem professional rather than amateur in nature. If you have a taste for sleek, atmospheric, sensual, electronically-tinged alternative rock, by all means give Skyhill a chance. You may very well find yourself disappointed that they only made one album together, but you can take comfort in the sonic euphoria of the songs on display here.