The Life and Times has lived a thousand lives since their first record more than twelve years ago, after the dissolution of Allen Epley's former band, little guy cult fave Shiner. Their fifth full-length album, Skull Map, is a sun and drug-dappled beauty, infused with a thick sonic kaleidoscope of tones. More immediate and to the point than previous releases, it's the shortest record they've made to date and is a nice summary of their thought processes: power and beauty hold the cards ultimately. One doesn't work without the other here. The first song "Killing Queens" represents this heavy-lidded flowery power. The melodies here feel familiar somehow but without plagiarism or air quotes completely.
Recording began in August 2016 at the band's studio in Chicago with Paul Malinowski twisting knobs and riding faders. The mix session was headed by Jason Livermore (Rise Against, Descendants, Shiner) at Blasting Room Studios in February 2017. It is a macro-focus recording, high-lighting Chris Metcalf's giant kick drum, a bass guitar sound that carries the entire album in its strings courtesy of Eric Abert, with Epley floating in the upper reaches with guitar and vocal melodies intertwining like lovers. Influences like Ride, Pink Floyd, Cheap Trick and even a touch of early Radiohead are never fully revealed, but you know they're out there, beyond the haze.