Skiptracing is Alexander Brettin’s second album released under the Mild High Club moniker. His first album Timeline came out on Stones Throw Records in 2015 and was an exciting glimpse into Brettin’s familiar but unique style of psychedelic songwriting.
Mild High Club is often mentioned in the same breath as many of Brettin’s indie rock contemporaries and collaborators such as Mac Demarco, Silk Rhodes, and Ariel Pink. However Skiptracing sees Brettin carve out his own, very special, musical niche. If Mac Demarco is the Billy Joel of this new wave of low-fi indie rock artists, Mild High Club is more like Steely Dan. Brettin’s love (and study) of jazz shines through the indie rock aesthetic and more complex chord progressions, voicings, extended melodies, jazzy solos, and licks set him apart from his peers.
The album opens with the title track “Skiptracing”. A bossa nova style drum machine counts in some chorused out guitar chords. New background melodies and percussion tastefully slide into the mix melding cleanly and subtly with the other instruments. Every sound introduced is nearly perfect. Synthesizers are beautifully warped and analog sounding; guitars are just jangly enough; the drums are recorded cleanly and dryly. Also worth noting is Brettin’s skill at writing basslines. It is often the bass that carries the mood / grove of Mild High Club songs and Brettin’s ability to stray from convention without overcrowding the mix is probably one of his most under appreciated skills.
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“Carry Me Back” plays out like a dreamy waltz and slow guitar lines are followed along by Brettin’s soothing vocals and slowly pumping synthesizer chords. “Tessellation” is another highlight, a rhodes driven 70s jazz fusion style track with a beautiful jazzy guitar solo at the end.
The track “¿Whodunnit?” is a strange, droning, percussive instrumental that signals the introduction of the more experimental final third of the record. Vocals begin to warp and echo in the super smooth track “Chasing My Tail”. “Ceiling Zero” is a quick interlude that sounds like a cross between a Beach Boys’ track and a nostalgic orchestral film soundtrack. Brettin uses layered vocals to voice chords while a couple of saxophones jazzily harmonise over the top. It acts as a brief intro to the next track “Chapel Perilous” which borrows small fragments of melody and lyrics from the song “When You Wish Upon A Star” from the 1940 film Pinocchio.
For anyone getting a little tired of the lack of musicality in indie rock music at the moment or anyone wanting a less technical, smoother take on modern jazz, Skiptracing is the perfect record.