Chad VanGaalen

The Canadian one-man band that is Chad VanGaalen would easily whup Conor Oberst's and M. Ward's asses in an indie rock version of American Idol, should one finally get produced (pretty please?). For all the emo heartthrob power and neo-Dylan status that those two may respectively have, neither wields the vibrant psychedelic creativity that bursts forth from VanGaalen's wonderfully scattered mind. His new disc, Skelliconnection, on which he once again plays almost every instrument, starts off with a fuzzy drive, as “Flower Gardens” reverberates under VanGaalen's Thorogood impersonation: “You'll be swimming though the p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-pipes!” The momentum continues with “Burn 2 Ash,” a Farfisa-enhanced pop nugget, but things settle down a bit with the programmed beats and synths of “Red Hot Drops” and acoustic reverie of “Rolling Thunder.” VanGaalen manages to make lo-fi sound like a Bacharach production, as he layers his skeletal arrangements with subtle synth chirps and flourishes. Granted, Skelliconnection is front-loaded with the best material, but that is not to say that the white-boy blues of “Wind Driving Dogs” or the harmonica rock of “Dead Ends” dulls the sheen too much. If Simon, Randy, and Paula don't send Chad to Hollywood, I'm swearing off reality TV forever.

— Jonah Flicker

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