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Gayle Skidmore Gayle Skidmore
Album: The Golden West
Label: Raincoat
Tracks: 10

Most of us understandably didn't get up to much when we were 4. It's an age where you get praised for correctly naming a few colours or shapes. When Gayle Skidmore was 4 she started learning the piano, following up by writing her own songs at 8, and beginning to perform in public at 14. Impressively, the Golden West is her 20th independent release, and started life as an EP before blooming into something else entirely. Evidently this was a cathartic experience for Skidmore, written in the lead up to her wedding, and while considering a permanent move from San Diego to Amsterdam. Skidmore describes the album as, "whimsical, melancholic music for the romantic intellectual."

Whimsical and melancholic is certainly an apt description for Pale Ghosts, which starts off soothing and gentle with an understated vocal performance. The instrumentals are glorious, elevating the song at times like the wind with a feather. The title track is a toe-tapping, catchy pop number, which is optimistic and uplifting, and will leave you singing along. The other ridiculously upbeat song on here is the wonderful Honeybee, which is an unashamedly happy track, and one of the strongest on the album.

The two standouts however are slightly darker and a touch more melancholic. Hourglass is a beautifully nostalgic song, about never getting enough time to spend with those people and places we love. The central refrain, "We're running out of time," is filled with sadness, but there is a real stark splendour too. Only Ever You, which features Dave Catching from The Eagles of Death Metal on guitar, is an epic heartbreaker of a track, full of longing and despair, but with a vein of hope running throughout.

How fortunate it is that the planned EP blossomed into something much more. Skidmore describes it as pure, honest and 100% her, and it does have a real authenticity and sincerity about it. The album is a creative joy, with an epic sweep and songs that will resonate and stay with you. It even comes with a colouring book for adults, the third such book she's produced with her music, going the extra mile into the Golden West.

Adam Jenkins