Skirts - "Almost Touching" (Album Review)

Too often EPs are thrown together haphazardly with no clear artistic direction. They're commonly a band or artist's first output so they end up as random collections of songs rather than true artistic efforts. That is not the case with Almost Touching, the first EP from Skirts, the bedroom pop project of Alex Montenegro from Dallas, Texas. This EP is a charming and clever piece of art.

Almost Touching sounds fragile, like it could fall apart at any moment. It's grainy and quiet like a shared secret. The sound is parallel to the subject matter, a romantic relationship that's somewhere between dissolving and holding together.

Opener "Don't Let Me Go" sets the tone with boxy and distant acoustic guitar chords next to Montenegro's hushed voice letting out beautiful lines of love like "I can't dance unless you're standing by me / you and two shots of rum give the same feeling / to my chest now so heavy / don't let me go."

By the end of the second track, "All to Myself," the relationship has deteriorated and the narrator is left trying to make sense of what happened, "he got tangled in my afternoon / and cut loose as soon as he could."

"Dream Girl" is a deceptive title for the saddest song on the album. Rather than sitting in the the over-charted territory of songs about a "dream girl", this track is about about not being someone's dream. The album's hushed production works best here than any other track on the album. Not always the cause of equipment limitations, lo-fi production can be used as an artistic tool. Montenegro uses it beautifully here to compliment the emotion behind the sparse and carefully arranged piano, drum, and banjo(?) plucks, and poignant lyrics like "I'll never be your dream."

The album's theme really comes into focus in its second half. "Stagnant" features a monologue from Montenegro over a synth arpeggio about struggling to make a relationship work even though it keeps unraveling, "like laying in the same pond, always floating, reaching for another, but never touching hands."

Sometimes we fight to keep difficult relationships together simply because they're almost there. We might even be certain they're not going to last, but the closer they are to finally coming together, the harder it is to let go. Montenegro hints at that in the last lines of "Almost Touching," the last lyrical track on the album, "I sure as hell want to keep at this / all I know is a storm is coming down"

Almost Touching concludes with instrumental track "Treading Water" and a hanging piano note. Like a well meaning but ill-fated relationship, it doesn't quite resolve. It ends, still floating.