Though currently based in Los Angeles, the roots of rising folk-rock artist Skittish (aka Jeff Noller) have always been Minnesotan, and it has never been more evident than in his new 10-track album Midwest Handshake, out now.
Inspired by sounds from the 1960s Muscle Shoals era of music, Midwest Handshake bathes present-day emotions in a retro aura of sound, creating an organic and grounded composition. The album includes nuances of orchestral instruments, an important element for the artist since he has worked in film sound production for the last few years. The lush instrumentation evokes a fuzzy black-and-white sitcom, while vocal barbs remind the listener of the task at hand. Written over a two-month visit back home, temporarily trading the land of Teslas and tents for 10,000 lakes, Noller framed the songs in various mid-20th Century musical styles that would likely be played at the Grand Ol’ Opry in 1960 (with a dash of ’80s-inspired emo sounds and tones).
As the 7th full-length album released by Skittish, Midwest Handshake exists somewhere in the friction caused by our idealized version of home rubbing against reality. Although the sound of popular music has changed with time, overarching generational problems have remained the same, and their sentiments continue to seep into modern-day music. The lyrics behind Midwest Handshake are a testament to timeless themes such as social division, dating, and love, and more.
Speaking of the album, Skittish shares, “The songs on this album are a mixture of lessons from the last few years of my life. I grew up in the midwest and after traveling all over the country, I recently landed in LA. Navigating new waters such as the LA social landscape, dating scene, and cultural climate are all challenges I’ve channeled into my new music.”
Noller is supported by additional lead vocals from Gracie Huffman (Lighthearted) as well as string and brass orchestration provided by Chris Lahn. Drummer Brian Griffin (Lana Del Rey, Dolly Parton) lends his talents to 3 songs, as Jeremy Krueth and Mark O’Day round out the rest of the percussion. Stand-up bass and Cello are prominently featured on the album and are played masterfully by Stephen Murray and Jacqueline Ultan, respectively. Additional mixing and production help was provided by Ben Etter (Deerhunter, Kaiser Chiefs), whose analogue wonderland provided just the right amount of muscle-shoals-esque grit to the mix.
Midwest Handshake Track Listing:
1. Home Team
2. Second Act
5. Are We There Yet
6. Easy On Me
7. True Believers
8. Magic Catfish
9. The Rightest Wrong
10. Come Around
Run Time: 33:22
Release Date: August 25, 2023
Record Label: Independent