I discovered Mystery Skulls due to their dual-collabo with Brandy and Nile Rogers, on the songs Number 1 and Magic. I happen to find both of these songs excellent listens, but I believe the album as a whole deserves reviewing for its overall quality.
The debut album was released at the end of October of this year after four singles teased Forever. Some say Mystery Skulls’ Indie-based music sounds similar to Daft Punk, but their funky-electro sound is rather unique to my ears. Anyways, I will try to be a bit brief in this review, but no promises.
So let’s break into this album and review it track-by-track:
1. Forever – The title track introduces the sound of Mystery Skulls right away. The pop/electronic sound of Mystery Skulls (Thanks Wikipedia) is evident immediately by the delay of vocals and emphasis on the song’s bassline and complex instrumental design. Strings, piano, and sounds of crowds add to the song’s sound, which is an indication for the rest of the album. The transition into EDM is a bit quick, but the song is catchy and one of the better pieces of the album. 9.25/10
2. The Future – Unlike the previous song, this track: 1. Has vocals that begin right away. 2. Features more swear words. 3. Leans more towards the Electronic sound than funk. The hook is a mash-up of “da-da-da-da” and fluxes of high bass. Yes, that was a real sentence, and I am proud of it. In essence, if EDM appeals to you, I would hardly skip this song. However, there are plenty of listeners looking for the Funk-based sound of Mystery Skulls. It can be a bit overwhelming to a non-EDM listener, lowering the general appeal but sticking to the roots of their sound. 9/10
3. Paralyzed – Paralyzed, aka Da Funk by Daft Punk but with vocals, is similar to the previous track. The hook makes sense and is catchy due to its lyricism. The emphasis of the song tends to be more focused on the vocals than before, and this pattern will continue later in the album at times. The song feels a bit basic between the lack of pace-change and similar beat to an earlier popular Daft Punk song. Still a solid effort and worth a listen though, despite not much change in the track until it feels too late (strings play throughout the end of the song). 7.75/10
4. Hellbent ft. Snowblood – Listening to this song for the first time was just kind of mind-boggling. The beat rises and rises until it feels like a dance-club in your ears. The pace drops quickly and emphasizes the vocals, but this is while the pace changes behind the singing of Mystery Skulls and returns to the almost ghastly beat of Hellbent. The creativity and complexity of the track’s pace and beat is entertaining and quite enjoying to listen to. The beat can sound like buzzing at times, and ruining the effect for a while, which is a shame. The track is also very brief, which is odd for a song that has one of only a couple of features. 8.25/10
5. Fantasy – More of me complaining about pace, but Fantasy features an immediate pace-change and another immediate drop that just feels rushed. Otherwise, the soothing auto-tuned track features an interesting and entertaining sound and lovely vocals. The hook is enjoyable, despite a lack of vocals, and this could be close to one of my favorites on the album. 9.25/10
6. Ghost – Ghost is one of the biggest reasons Mystery Skulls has an album right now, and it hardly disappoints. If this was my first impression of Dubuc’s music, I would be impressed. The song featured some Billboard chart time on the Dance songs at #15 (Again, thanks Wikipedia) and resembles much of modern pop’s sound. The song has moments when it resembles Hellbent, but this could be one of the best songs on the album. It is catchy as ever and remains stuck in my head. 9.5/10
7. Magic ft. Nile Rogers and Brandy – I had to deliberate if I liked this song over the next track, Number 1, and while I appreciate the lyricism in the latter, I find this song to be my favorite of the two, and on the whole album. Brandy’s voice sounds excellent and the vocals of Mystery Skulls are probably the purest and most enjoyable on this song. It is almost perfect, save for the over-repetitive hook, which does not ruin the song, per say, but just takes away from its appeal. 9.75/10
8. Number 1 ft. Nile Rogers and Brandy – Already reviewed this song here a while ago. I do enjoy hearing it a lot still, and it is up there in my favorites on this album.
9. When I’m With You – I was afraid of a drop in consistency after the two best features on the album, but When I’m With You debunks that theory and proves that Mystery Skulls has a consistently solid album throughout. The EDM aspect of this song is evident and the nearly vocal-less hook is incredible in it simplicity. Another song on the album truly worth a listen. 9.5/10
10. Body High – I was slightly disappointed by this track after the previous few being the climax of the album and so excellent, but the song remains a great listen. The vocals are more prominent in this track until the chorus, and the complex instrumental (including piano) constantly changes and stays interesting. The hook is very catchy, and resembles the previous song’s beat. Everything jumps in just a bit too quickly and the song can be a bit tedious after a couple minutes in. 8.75/10
11. Every Note – So how will Mystery Skulls cap the album? The closing out of an LP is remarkably important to me, and the verdict on this one is clear. The song ends the album well by encompassing the album’s sound and playing a safe “similar to the previous songs” ending. The variations of sounds and consistent beat make it an easy song to listen to after an a long album, and the new sounds inserted are not enough to make the listener jump out of their seat. The song is solid, but not as entertaining as some of the previous songs. 9/10
So that averages out to around 9/10, which is appropriate for this album. The sound of Mystery Skulls is ingenuitive and an impressive start, but there are a few dud tracks that weigh it down and sound un-original. However, there are some gems on this album worth listening to, including Number 1, Magic, Ghost, Fantasy and Forever. I highly recommend at least a listen to those. Now let’s give a special thanks to Mystery Skulls for merging Funk and Neo-Soul with EDM so well.
You can buy the whole album here. You can also stream the album as a whole at MelodySpot.com: