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CD REVIEW: Skin and Bones by Justin DiFebbo

Justin DiFebbo scored big with his first release Turn Out the Light, Turn on the Stereo and his latest effort, Skin and Bones, will likely widen the growing spotlight on his work. The album’s ten songs are largely balanced between two stylistic focus points – dreamy, quasi-psychedelic light rock and quirky, guitar-powered rock and roll. There are shadings and variations on these twin points, but DiFebbo finds a fruitful line of attack early on and sticks with it. Another positive – few albums you hear this year will likely sound so inspired. It’s little wonder. DiFebbro overflows with enough energy and musical ideas to help power other indie bands like the retro pop group Summer Fiction and his own blues band called K-Floor, so it isn’t surprise at all that this album plays like the work of a highly charged imagination.

The imaginative effort is clear from the first song on. “Adrift” will surely garner attention as one of the album’s most ethereal numbers, an orchestrated confection of high-brow psychedelic pop that takes a few chances along the way. The steady keyboard swirl and production effects lightly applied to the recording are tethered to musical realities by stinging guitar work and DiFebbro’s bell clear voice cutting through it all. The main riff of “Back and Forth” mimics the song title and its short swing gives it an unexpected strut. DiFebbo’s voice, at first listen, might seem too light for this sort of bruising guitar workout, but he more than rises to the challenge and shows considerable ability for convincingly inhabiting rockier textures. The album’s title cut is a beautifully melodic piece with a light hint of melancholy darkening its edges, but DiFebbo doesn’t play to that. He explores, instead, his upper register and it brings impressive sensitivity to one of DiFebbo’s best songs.

“To My Love” has a great mid-tempo sweep driven by drums and guitar. DiFebbo slows down his vocal delivery in comparison and it has an interesting, weightier effect on the track. Tremolo guitar, considered drumming, and light keyboards weave a spell around DiFebbo’s vocals on “To My Love”. The vocal melody is among his best – it crescendos at the right times and makes the transitions sound effortless. “Good Intent” begins its life on piano and soon incorporates more, but never too much. His exceptional phrasing brings the lyrical content to life and the dynamics of the song help elevate to a place among the albums finest. “Too Much” alternates between hazed over, jangling electric folk and bursts of soaring lead and tough rhythm guitar in the song’s second half. Like the other songs on Skin and Bones, the song is in sharp focus and doesn’t fritter away time. DiFebbo has excellent artistic discipline.

Skin and Bones ends with “Be a Star”, a gentle goodbye with strings, acoustic guitar, and DiFebbo. There’s a faint keyboard sheen seemingly hanging over the track as well or, perhaps, it’s just how they recorded the song. These factors, despite the lack of percussion, give the song considerable atmospheric power and DiFebbo’s skyward bound harmonies go even further towards creating a mood. It is difficult to consider better ways he could have ended this album. Skin and Bones solidifies DiFebbo’s place among the pre-eminent song stylists working today. He is a complete talent and these full length works give him the widest stage possible for the world to witness his craft.

SOUNDCLOUD: https://soundcloud.com/justind

by Jason Hillenburg

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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