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Synth Album Review: "The Skeleton's Closet" by Color Theory

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

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Overall Album Impressions

Color Theory’s (Brian Hazard) The Skeleton’s Closet combines songs that didn’t fit in with his Mages album, along with remixes of some of the songs on that album. It showcases his unique vocal style, strong melodies, and intriguing lyrics while also letting the remixers show off their own musical chops.

I have always enjoyed Brian Hazard’s singing style. It is quite gentle and soothing, but capable of carrying deep emotion. His sound is distinctive as he imbues the softness of his voice with a breadth of expression and feeling. His voice is also well-suited to his lyrical style.

The songwriting abilities that Brian Hazard possesses shine through once again on The Skeleton’s Closet. His lyrics are sharp, clever, and even touching. The use of imagery, wry humour, and a feel for the foibles and challenges of being human all come through in the words of the songs. I find something new each time I listen,

Melodic writing is another arrow in Brian Hazard’s quiver. He crafts clear, memorable, and affecting melodies that express as much emotion as his lyrics and vocals. The way all of the different musical elements combine results in a enjoyable whole on The Skeleton’s Closet.

The remixes on this album are well-thought out interpretations of the original material. I enjoy the way in which they manage to keep the original spirit while adding their own musical twist.

Color Theory - "Anyone Would"

My Favourite Tracks

“Anyone Would” begins with flaring, bursting synth and a steadily throbbing drumbeat along with brightly dancing arpeggios. Bryan Hazard’s vocals are easily flowing and distinctive, expressing the emotion in the lyrics as the vocal melody smoothly glides, mingling warmth and laid back float. Reidun Minde Janøy adds her voice to balance the music, her vocals are smooth and lush, carrying the dynamic melody.

Medium-high synths burst in round pulses and shiny synth arpeggios ripple through the music. The bass line is active and the drums steadily push the song forward. I enjoy the full, rounded synth singing a delicate melody tinged by pain. Quick, low synth bursts join the sweeping flowing lead instrument while the drums bounce and move the music. Reidun Minde Janøy and Bryan Hazard’s voices meld together before silence falls.

The main narrator in this song talks about a complex relationship mingling co-dependency and desire. He talks about being able to “shake off my intuitions, misgivings and deep suspicions.” He goes on to say that the other person claims not to be home but her light is on. He adds that “it don’t take Sherlock Holmes to see that something’s wrong!”

Our narrator points out that “in spite of your disposition” he’ll still believe her because “anyone would.” He goes on to say that he also still needs her. In reply, the song’s subject talks about how the narrator says she’s smiling all the time “so wicked and so beguiling.” She says she has a “pitchfork in my hand as I light the match” and encourages him to drink down “the poison in your glass.”

The storyteller concludes that despite being accused of lying, “I’m still dependent in adulthood” and asks, “But who can blame me?”

Color Theory - "Infectious"

Angular, energetic bass forms a propulsive pattern as nasal, elevated synth flickers and cascades to kick off “Infectious.” Brian Hazard’s vocals are warm and the vocal melody caresses despite the darkness inherent in the lyrics. Distant synth flow is broken by airy piano and slightly gruff, medium-high synth moves in ripples above the steady drum heartbeat.

A rapidly bouncing lead synth moves through the swirling background sounds as active bass shifts and Brian Hazard’s vocals glide, pleasingly full of expression. The piano dances as medium-high synth rapidly skips along. The piano segment is full of emotive power and expression. After a sparkling cascade of notes, the chorus slides through the track as the addictive melodic pattern flickers away to quiet.

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In a song that combines references to the COVID pandemic and a relationship that’s disintegrating, the narrator talks about how he deserves what’s happening to him because “I really gotcha good.” He says that he made the other person angry and it’s a “necklace made of Kryptonite.” Our narrator tells the person to “wear it proudly” and keep away “out of spite” as though they are “quarantined and out of sight.” The two of them are now “confined to separate galaxies” like the narrator is diseased.

In the chorus, the storyteller points out that the other person said they wouldn’t “touch me with a six foot pole” because he’s infectious. Now he feels like he’s “suffocating in a goldfish bowl” for that reason.

The narrator admits that “longing for a human touch” hurts him because “loneliness is epidemic” but he “can’t afford to take a chance.” Now he says that he will “still myself to stay apart” as he puts up “guardrails” around his heart. However, as the song ends, he tells the other person that “you can’t wash your hands of me that easily.”

Color Theory - "The Skeleton's Closet"

“The Skeleton’s Closet” opens as ethereal, medium-high synth tumbles the music in a gently flowing line. The drumbeat’s driven throb and pulsating bass guides the song before Brian Hazard’s softly touching voice carries the light, but active vocal melody over the falling synth line.

I am drawn to the mingled tenderness and melancholy in the vocal melody that matches the song’s words. This song mingles hurt, hope and attachment as the drumbeat shapes the music. Bright, descending synth is joined by a piano that adds warmth and depth as it cascades through the music. Brian Hazard’s voice is pained and caressing while the synths intertwine.

This is a song about a relationship that is, to say the least, complicated. Our narrator talks about how the other person should tell their friends “it never happened.” He says that because that person is embarrassed “by this thing you’ve done” they’ve “dug up the earth, buried the body” and now he’s an afterthought, “a skeleton.”

The secret they share is “just once you kissed me” and now the narrator feels the other person’s breath “in the space before I sleep in the skeleton’s closet.” Our storyteller says that he’ll keep his promise not to say anything about it. Instead he will “cry out to an empty sky to hear my prayers.” Even though the other person makes him feel “worthless” the narrator says he needs to “rescue you from your despair.”

In light of what had happened they now share “ a bond that shall not be broken” as he whispers the other person’s name “in the aching darkness.”

Color Theory - "Master List"

Full, flowing synths gently float through “Master List” as it comes to life. Brian Hazard’s vocals are resonant and rich as the bouncing lead carries bursting, divided notes. Rising, quickly leaping notes on a lower synth leap upwards to balance them. Brian Hazard’s voice is trembling and the melody is tinged with doubt and minor key shadow as quick medium-high notes flow through and the background swirls and washes.

Brian Hazard’s voice has a unique quality and is full of emotion. The drums scud easily with the active bass and the flaring synth melody has a singing quality of its own. Now the vocals glide and skip along and the drums and bass keep their energy up. Twisting notes briefly move before the shivering drums and a quick, round arpeggio dances through and guitar sings out an expressive, arcing solo that soars out over the steady drums and into quiet.

There’s a certain “bite” and edge to this song’s lyrics and our passive aggressive narrator’s voice. He talks about how he keeps a “master list” of the other person’s flaws but says “none of them bother me at all.” He explains that he writes them down “dispassionately” to keep himself sane. He points out that “I catalog them incessantly so nothing can get to me.”

Our narrator says that along with angry unsent emails he has a “hidden dossier of discontent” that he’s lovingly compiled. In this dossier, he catalogues everything from “venomous pride (and) a lust for power” to paranoia and “crippling jealousy” in the other person.

The narrator does admit that he's “no stranger to the seven deadly sins” and he is also to blame for "the little shop of horrors in our midst.” He adds that no one is perfect and he won’t ask the other person to change.

He concludes, “I don't want to say something I can't take back so this is how I vent.”

Color Theory - "This Whole Nothing (Tangerine Beams Remix)”

"This Whole Nothing (Tangerine Beams Remix)” begins with short, deep bursts of slightly gruff synth moving behind Brian Hazard’s expressive voice along with gleaming higher notes. The smoothly gliding drumbeat touches the music as Brian Hazard’s voice soars, ethereal sparkling synth flickers in delicate arpeggios.

The throbbing beat and deep bass launch into an active pattern before an arcing melody sings out on a round, medium high synth. The music flows into a more shimmering, airy passage backed by slowly throbbing drums.

Now the drums accelerate below the gentle vocals and the throbbing intensifies as the main melody wheels and spins up in a bright line. I enjoy the way that Brian Hazard’s fragile vocals contrast with the energetic drums and bass that push the music onward.

Full pipe-like synths have a breathy feel as they lift “The Limit (Matt Mancid Remix)” in smoothly flowing lines over steadily tapping drums. The solid bass throb pulses while Brian Hazard’s emotive voice carries a gossamer vocal melody. A sweeping rush of sound is broken by arpeggios of sparkling synth twinkling above the music.

Again the solid throb of the drums and bass propel the tender melody, contrasting well with the much darker lyrics. There’s a gleam to the lead synth as it flickers in active patterns. Brian Hazard’s caressing vocals carry the contrasting pain of the lyrics. The drums and bass glide smoothly as the round pipe-like synth adds fullness to the music. A darker shading of sound fills the song as it ends.

Color Theory - “Rogues" (J-Mi & Midi-D Remix)

“Rogues (J-Mi & Midi-D Remix)” starts with quietly skittering sounds and trembling synth chords that float below Brian Hazard’s distinctive vocals. Solid, deeply throbbing drums and bass create a easy-going but propulsive beat. The song breaks into Brian Hazard’s shivering vocals and claps add even more motion to the solid anchoring drive of drums and bass.

After heavy bass drops in, a frolicking synth carries the bouncing melody out over the drum and bass heartbeat. Again there’s skittering soft sounds over an oscillation of undulating synths and the motion of the drums and bass. Brian Hazard’s voice is feather-light as it carries the melancholy vocal melody. Full, glowing synth bursts dynamically as it carries the dancing notes of the main melody over the steady drumbeat and bass.

Chest punching bass jumps into a solid floor-filler of a beat as percussion trips through to kick off "Dungeons (J-Mi & Midi-D Remix).” Ethereally flowing synth lifts Brian Hazard’s lush voice carrying the hopeful vocal melody. A keyboard carries the uplifting instrumental melody over a slower, smoother drumbeat as it slips along.

Brian Hazard’s vocals are wonderfully dreamy and pipe-like synth sweeps over heavy bass. Now the drumbeat and bass leap into an energizing high tempo beat as spinning, medium-high synth whirls. There’s a transition back to the slower, more laidback segment with the positive keyboard melody over bass upwelling. Once again, the wild abandon. Brian Hazard’s unique vocals move as flashing synth chords shine and the slow bass and drum throb adds more motion before the song ends.

Conclusion

The Skeleton's Closet combines Brian Hazard's unique approach to synthpop with some fresh takes on his music from talented remixers. The end result is enjoyable, ear-grabbing and full of musical joy.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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