# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Ske - Life, Death, Happiness & Stuff

  by Emma Haigh

published: 17 / 10 / 2004

Ske - Life, Death, Happiness & Stuff
Label: Smekkleysa
Format: CD


Debut album from Icelandic seven-piece art pop collaborative, Ske, which, despite recent stunning live performances, proves unfortunately to sound "disappointingly familiar"

When offered the chance to cover a review of Ske’s debut album, I jumped. I’ve seen them perform live across London with borderline avidity. Each time, without fail, a night of delicately spun harmonies, luxuriant arrangements and experimentalist electro-whimsy. Each time exciting, pushing constantly the boundaries of expectation. A seven-piece art pop collaborative, Ske’s experimentalism has already won them accolades from their native Iceland, winning Track of the Year for 'Life, Death, Happiness and Stuff' in 2003. Their success comes from a writing team of four core members who revel in mixing seemingly incompatible sounds and textures. Layered over beautifully synthy undertones sliding around roaming guitar and instrumental climaxes are evocative guest vocals in French, English and Japanese. However, while they have their moments of glory 'Life, Death, Happiness and Stuff', unlike their performances, is disappointingly familiar. Opening track, ‘Stuff,’ seems to recall the electro-swirls and twanging guitar treads that made Air’s 'Moon Safari' so artfully unique, while combining a lyrical interpretation of The Beatles’ ‘Fool on the Hill.’ ‘Cowboy’ sounds very much like U2’s ‘With or Without You’, complete with soft mourning Bono-esque vocals, spiralling tear-drop synth and that unmistakably rising gradient of guitar and drum line, coming across less interpretation than imitation. ‘Le Tram’ lets off impressions of Joni Mitchell’s 'Songs to a Sea Gull' as much as it does Vanessa Paradis’ gift for delicate folk-spun whimsy. Even with its gorgeously innocent Japanese vocals, ‘Julietta 1’ appears reminiscent of fellow Icelandic darlings, Mum’s 'Finally We Are No One'. It is not until we get to ‘Strange and Deranged’ that we get to something that is wholly and completely its own. Beautifully, hauntingly arranged, ‘Strange and Deranged’ is purely instrumental, climaxing with the sort of dainty etherealness and unassuming warmth that was so initially attractive. Similarly, ‘Julietta 2’ embarks on a delightful journey of fantasy that inspires a glimmer of truth. However, this momentary glimpse at what Ske has proved themselves capable live is lost in the concluding track ‘T-rex’ which just makes you wonder who decided to put it in the album at all. As a result this album sounds like everything and nothing. There is an art to appropriating influence, acknowledging and interpreting without turning to unconscious plagiarism. And, while I do hope I’m wrong, I’m not sure Ske entirely succeeds.

Track Listing:-
1 Stuff
2 Cowboy
3 One Thing
4 Le Tram
5 Julietta 1
6 Strange & Deranged
7 Julietta 2
8 T-Rex

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