EP Review: Spelles’ Skeleton Coast I Uses Darkness to Find the Light

Skeleton Coast I - SPELLES 2018 art
SPELLES’ Skeleton Coast I is a confident yet vulnerable plea to enhance life’s light through connection. Its haunting melodies and bold rhythms will blast a hole through any desolate darkness and revive the spark within us all.

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Kathryn Baar, aka SPELLES, has been sneaking us nibbles of the soul searching music she’s been cooking up for the last few months. At long last her sophomore EP, Skeleton Coast I (released today, 3/23/2018 via Room), which chronicles Baar’s personal triumphs, growth and challenges has been released to the wild for mass consumption.

Filled with the perfect balance of heart pounding rhythms, guile soaked vocals and spooky/winding melodies, Skeleton Coast I will wrap itself around every listener at any given time and hold them, just tight enough.  

Listen: ‘Skeleton Coast I’ – SPELLES


From a distance the actual Skeleton Coast, referring to the Atlantic coast of Namibia and south Angola, looks pristine, peaceful and even idyllic. As one gets close enough to view and experience the realities of this seemingly serene topography, it becomes clear that the facade couldn’t be further from the truth.  Littered with the skeletons of sea worthy animals and those of ravaged and rusting ship carcasses, this coast and its many concealed rocks, has collected the lives and deaths of many who ventured too close to its beauty.

Skeleton Coast I - SPELLES 2018

Skeleton Coast I – SPELLES

This makes Skeleton Coast I the perfect title for SPELLES’ musical chronicles of her challenging experiences in LA.  Baar moved to LA after college, drawn in by the promise of its sparkling stage lights and calling marquis in hot pursuit of a musical career. While she has indeed found success and validation in the form of 2 well received EPs and more than a few prime time soundtrack entries, the journey was not free from peril.

Battling through the very humbling and human stumbling block of self doubt and its resulting anxiety and depression, SPELLES allowed this darkness to help her find the light. Using the dark side of her inner self as a a muse, she wrote us some mind blowing songs.

Sometimes life is sink or swim
And I thought I was drowning
But I closed my eyes
and I
 learned how to dive
To the depths alive within

Even though the first track on Skeleton Coast I has the word dead in the title, it’s not at all about dying. “Dead in the Water” is an idiom used to describe the sensation of being frozen in your path and unable to function or make progress. SPELLES’ “Dead in the Water” is a song about dipping deep into one’s own wellspring of life force and pulling forth the empowerment to push forward despite being temporarily stalled by difficulties. 

Now I rise with the tide
I won’t stop ’til I reach the shore
When you’re lost you will find
You’ve been what you’re looking for


Down to the River,” the first of two songs exclusively available on Skeleton Coast I, is a most impressive track.  In true SPELLES style, it starts off with a bang and flows through with strong yet vulnerable lyrics. While highlighting the difficulties of making it in LA isn’t an untold tale, when Baar turns the spotlight on herself and takes responsibility for her struggles, we begin to see the uniquely tough stuff, of which, this mysterious mama is made. 

The river has been lifted from me
Safe and sound since
I found my hands were
holding me down,

I let go I let go, down in the river. 

“This song is about realizing that a lot of the suffering in my life at the time was self-created” Baar confesses. “It reminds me of the Mark Twain quote “There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened.” It was a huge realization to learn how to get out of my own way and stop doubting myself.“

SPELLES © Zach Bell

SPELLES © Zach Bell

Wildfire,” Skeleton Coast I’s shadowy closer, resonates like the haunting voice of a lone wolf howling at the moon. Offering a delicate and lamenting version of SPELLES confident vocal style, “Wildfire” represents a philosophical and private commentary on the potentially isolating and destructive effect that religion can have on human relationships.

The truth, it spread like wildfire
And burned us all alive
The angels wept as the flames grew higher
And the rivers ran dry
SPELLES © Zach Bell

SPELLES © Zach Bell

When asked to clarify the message within “Wildfire” Baar explains, “Wildfire has a few different layers and meanings, but it’s mostly about how we humans can absolutely destroy each other literally and figuratively even though we’re all the same. Sometimes it can be in the name of, or influenced by, religion. Being a non-religious person myself, I find the the destructiveness behind the mask of religion to be shameful. I think, if there is a God, they would find how we treat each other to be shameful too.”

They knew the end was coming
So they filled up the night sky
As our ashes rained down
Sending shivers down His spine
It’s alright, maybe next time
It’s alright, maybe next time

Hard to imagine that separations between people could be part of the universe’s grand plan for existence. Our world has so many unique intricacies to enjoy. The kind of beauty that can offer enlightening lessons of strength, acceptance, love and support. How beautiful it would be if we could remove the concealed rocks from our shores and destroy the darkness of solitude and separation. The light and connection that would bring our human community would be Devine.

Until then, we all need to cultivate as much strength, support, love and light as possible. When a collection of life affirming tunes like those on SPELLES Skeleton Coast I, is set free in the musiverse, you gotta follow the first play with a whole lotta repeats. The light it creates will blast a hole through any desolate darkness and revive the spark within us all.

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:: stream/purchase SPELLES here ::

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Skeleton Coast I - SPELLES 2018

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📸 © Zach Bell

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Skeleton Coast I - SPELLES 2018

Skeleton Coast I – SPELLES

Ilana Kalish was a jazz fed baby, pop-synched child, emo-soaked teenager and indie-rocked coed. Between working at the friendly corner record store, singing in a garage (sometimes with a band) and sitting under trees while writing short fiction, Ilana also got her degrees in modern dance and creative writing from the University of MD in College Park. All of these adventures eventually resulted in www.skiptothis.com where she shares her adventures down the rabbit hole of the musiverse. A self-proclaimed neologista, Ilana is always dancing with words to music, usually while drinking coffee and smirking. As a writer for Atwood Magazine, Ilana hopes to make you smile and nod happily with her whimsy and impeccable (smirk) taste in music.