Indianapolis-based indie psych rocker Joshua Powell takes no prisoners on his latest “astral rock” release, Skeleton Party, in which he melds his established indie-pop sound with molten-hot guitar rock.
In his youth, Powell was heavily involved in the DIY hardcore scene in Florida where he grew up. As he grew older, he ventured away from his hardcore moshing roots and began gravitating towards more folky and bedroom-pop sounds. On Skeleton Party, Powell makes a return to his rockin’ roots, and by doing so, has found a new and fiery voice.
Having played over 900 shows across nearly every continental U.S. state, Powell is no stranger to touring. For his latest release, Skeleton Party, Powell teamed up with his brother Jacob Powell (drums), along with two longtime collaborators Adam Shuntich (guitar) and Josh Townsend (bass). This is also the first record the group has self-produced, which is especially impressive given the record’s pristine and vibey production. The album was so rock solid that it caught the attention of Indy-based record label Romanus Records, who decided to pick up and distribute it.
The first song on the record and standout single, “Sad Boy at the Skeleton Party,” is a monstrous introduction to the record. Loud, overdriven guitars burst from cranked amplifiers and pummel the listener’s ears, while blazing fast harmonized guitar solos emerge that sound like Iron Maiden meets The Allman Brothers. All the while, Powell’s thoughtful vocal melodies bring the guitars back down to earth, but only until the song blasts back into controlled rock n’ roll chaos.
“Rainbow Trout,” the second off the record, lets off the gas from the prior track, instead revealing the indie-pop side of Powell’s psyche. Sea-sick, modulated guitars are accompanied by psychedelic slide guitars that echo into oblivion, while Powell’s ethereal vocals drift through space, drawing comparisons to Jim James from My Morning Jacket. The latter half of the song explodes into an unexpected and brutal breakdown, with fuzzed out guitars chaotically chugging out relentless power chords.
For “Cannabis Rex,” the third track off the album, Powell breaks out the electric guitars once more. With its layered vocals and complex melodies, the song lulls the listener into a false sense of security before a nu-metal-esque breakdown with sinister riffs and pounding drums comes blazing into the mix.
“Decoder Ring,” the fourth track off the album, is a laid back bedroom-pop anthem. While many artists use the auto-tune effect to compensate for lack of vocal talent, Powell cleverly employs it in a way that elevates the track rather than to cover up flaws. With gritty synth swells and overdriven guitars erupting from the song’s dreamy atmosphere, it’s a tune that fans will undoubtedly be blasting all through fall, winter, and beyond.
The latter half of the album carries on with much of the same fire, and displays the raw untethered power behind Powell and his band. Skeleton Party has everything a rock and indie-pop fan could want: the dreamy, ethereal melodies juxtaposed with some seriously rockin’ riffage, making for a fun and compelling listen.