Shedding Skin

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Seems like critics posted U.K. rapper Ghostpoet as left-field hip-hop's big hope just two verses into his debut, but the gifted man might really be the genre's Mark E. Smith, even if MC Obaro Ejimiwe doesn't share any of the indie rock frontman's same "quirks." Like Smith's group the Fall, Ghostpoet is outsider music that sounds familiar and yet unique, so unique that to be outwardly influenced by the man's rapid, literate mumble or his hazy, poetic delivery would be to mimic him. BBC DJ John Peel famously called the Fall's music "always different...always the same," and with this third album, it also applies to Ghostpoet. The instrumentation is different, as guitars and a traditional band support the lyrics where laptops and samplers used to be, and Ghostpoet himself has changed a bit, responding to the band with a more natural or organic flow while letting a little more mirth out, perhaps because bassists and drummers are more fun to hang around with than hard drives. Still, "Sorry My Love, It's You Not Me" may open like an early U2 number with echoing guitars and tats on the snare, but it's as if a beat were lifted from Boy or October once the vocals sneak in, boozily yearning "to feel magic and stars" before "it's just that you're forgettable, babe," because that's how Obaro breaks up. Featuring Maximo Park's Paul Smith, "Be Right Back, Moving House" sets out on a Mumford & Sons sized-journey, then gets wonderfully caught up in its rhythmically tangled second half, and if the artist does sound just like someone else -- rapper Tricky -- on "That Ring Down the Drain Kind of Feeling," the key cut breaks away into Ghostpoet land once the lyrics lay out a layered story of love and guilt. Add the devastating title cut plus more memorable melodies than usual, and Shedding Skin might be the Ghostpoet album to begin with for those who prefer something a bit traditional, but with three excellent efforts from the get-go, the point isn't where to start, but to start, because the rewards are consistent and plentiful.

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