Review Summary: Two ounces heavy synths, an ounce of soothing self-assuredness, a dash of willingness and a pinch of vulnerability--mix well and serve to your beloved.
Or, hell, let's be real and say the person who may just accompany you to bed tonight if you play your cards right. Oh and don't forget the garnishes. It's all in the details and hopefully by the morning you'll have weighed the pros and cons and have decided if it was a good decision or not. Of course, I'm skirting around openly identifying a situation which many of us have found ourselves in at one point or another in our life. What's important in this case, is not the situation itself but the feeling and damn it if the debut album from Los Angeles duo Skin Town doesn't bring it in droves.
The Room is a stripped-back, provocative, modern R&B record that even though it owes much of its listening audience to a post-The Weeknd musical landscape, it also manages to capture the feeling and mood of 90's contemporary R&B. Comprised of vocalist Grace Hall and Nick Turco of Zola Jesus fame, Skin Town delivers music for your late night rendezvous; dark, exotic and peculiar while at the same time welcoming if somewhat predictable. As noted before, Turco provides the foundation of heavy synths and layered beats meanwhile Hall recalls endless nights with juicy images and vivid lyrics. "The Zone" and "Ride" are two prime examples of this style, with the former utilizing a drawn-out but thumping build up to accentuate Hall's robust voice as she, rather frankly, narrates the kind of things one might want done to them after an extended period of flirtation. The latter cuts any foreplay right out as the slow clap of the beat joins in with the most direct lyrics on the album. Some listeners might fault the choice of words Hall uses, criticizing them for being way too straightforward to be considered sensual. Other's might argue that her husky voice plus Turco's penchant for melody provide the group a saving grace. Keep in mind though, when criticizing, the mentality of creating an album with this kind of appeal--pure intentions most likely weren't too high on the list of desired feelings to conjure up.
There are more traditional R&B cuts on the record as well, as the duo are quite fond of Kanye's 808's and the more pop oriented R&B that came before it. "Hit Down" is the musical equivalent of trip down memory lane. Evoking groups like En Vogue or even 90's era Mariah Carey, the track brings home the vibe of those careless summer parties when R&B had more to do with affection and love than say, deception and lecherousness. Skin Town's influences are clear from start to finish and they do enough to update the sound--giving it a modern twist while staying true to the atmosphere they aimed to create. Songs like, "Midnight Lover" and "Thrown' Shade", see Skin Town updating that classic 808 sound retaining the crisp, smooth digital qualities while remaining emotionally available and relatable.
While still perhaps getting used to the stylings, as both come from different backgrounds--Hall with her noise punk outfits and Turco with the more electronic driven outfit Zola Jesus, The Room does have its fair share of blunders. Although carefully producing a brooding album suited for sensuality some tracks come off as a bit too poppy and perhaps ruin the records flow. The rather cheerful songs don't play too well with the more sinister numbers making for sometimes odd bedfellows. Then there are some short and unmemorable tracks which offers nothing much in terms of danceability, groove or melody and could have been left of the disc entirely--looking right at you, "Rain". Add to that the 'trite' lyrics, though that might be more of a personal taste, and finally you have an inciting but flawed album. At the end of the day though, The Room is a worthwhile listen for those who prefer melody combined with a touch of candidness rather than deceit with their rhythm and blues.