The Skys – Automatic Minds on

The Skys claim to be Lithuania’s leading rock band and the most recognised band from Lithuania abroad. Upon searching, I could find little information of Lithuanian bands having success outside of their homeland. I did find that The Skys have received recent airplay on BBC Radio 2 in the UK, this being the airing of the track Communication from their most recent release Automatic Minds.

If the list of guest musicians appearing on the album is anything to go by, the band is certainly well respected. Guests include Snowy White and Durga McBroom, who have been part of Pink Floyd’s live band, Rob Townsend from the Steve Hackett band, and India Carney who appeared in the US version of The Voice talent show. Add to this, the album being produced by Dom Morley who has produced artists such as Mark Ronson, Adele and Morrissey, along with winning the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year for Amy Winehouse’s Back In Black, then you certainly have a wealth of talent involved. All of this has been achieved, it appears, without the support of a record label, as the CD copy I have for review has no mention of a label.

Automatic Minds is The Skys’ sixth release, but with the first being in 1997, their output is far from prolific. As you might imagine the production of the album is of the highest quality. The Skys’ sound on this album reminds me of a mixture of latter day Pink Floyd and The Alan Parsons Project, with an American progressive feel similar to Styx.

Aside from the numerous guests on the album the core of the band is a four piece consisting of Jonas Čiurlionis on guitar and vocals, Božena Buinicka on keyboards and vocals, bass player Justinas Tamaševičius and drummer Ilja Molodcov. Singing duties are shared between Božena and Jonas. On this latest release, Božena seems to take more of the singing duties than on previous albums.

Album opener, Get Rid Of This, begins with a powerful opening, reminiscent of Arena before we hear the sound of a typewriter punctuated with orchestral stabs, then Božena takes centre stage with a dramatic and passionate delivery. The rich chorus has a very AOR feel to it, then Jonas takes control with his extremely accomplished guitar playing which closes the song.

The title track, Automatic Minds, has a saxophone intro reminiscent of Gerry Rafferty, which reminds the listener what a stunning instrument it is when in talented hands. The verse then enters Talking Heads like territory. The song twists and turns through many moods including an Asian style acoustic guitar passage, before Jonas again demonstrates his talents with a solo which David Gilmour would be proud.

The Guardian Of The Water Tower is reminiscent of early Peter Gabriel, especially with Jonas vocal delivery bearing an uncanny resemblance. An up-tempo number, a dramatic instrumental section begins with great pomposity, with a feel of Pallas before another emotional guitar solo. It ends with a keyboard solo over a wonderful rhythmic backing again bringing comparisons to Pallas.

The Singing Tree has a very Celtic sound, and due to the shared vocals, at times sounds like the type of collaborative ballad Peter Gabriel was so good at writing. The song is also raised well above average by the brief but wonderful sax playing of Justin Klunk.

A driving bass line similar to Chris Squire opens Templar’s Last Stand. A dramatic number at times having a King Crimson feel, it features a quirky keyboard passage and a guitar solo which allows Jonas to rock out.

Love Of Life would have been the weakest song on the album if not for Jonas’ guitar intro, and the keyboard and sax middle section. These elements of musicianship and composition demonstrate what The Skys are so good at, which is writing damn good songs which keep the listener hooked.

Dry Water is a track full of drama. From the duel vocals that introduce the song, which builds in a suitably epic way with Durga McBroom’s vocals over a dramatic Arabic sounding musical background.

The albums epic track, Dead End, allows Božena to demonstrate her piano skills, before being joined by Jonas adding a Mark Knopfler style guitar passage. You then get slapped in the face with a driving rhythm section driving the song along, before a mellow Gabriel like chorus. Jonas again excels himself with yet another stunning guitar solo. He truly is a guitarist who deserves a great deal of recognition.

The final track, Communication, opens with India Carney’s vocal reminding me of the rich vocal harmonies of Yes during the 90125 period. This is repeated during the songs chorus. An absolute rocker of a track, it’s extremely radio friendly, and if we were back in the ’90s, a sure fire hit. But don’t think this sounds dated, far from it, The Skys are probably producing the freshest of progressive music I have heard in a long time. Rich choruses, dramatic and intelligent songwriting, The Skys deserve to be not only Lithuania’s biggest rock band, on this offering they deserve to be one of the biggest in the world.

When I first listened to Automatic Minds I was not immediately drawn to the music, but after multiple listens and the chance to properly immerse myself in the music, the full brilliance of this recording is now obvious. Should you try this album, which I highly recommend you do, be prepared to invest the time to fully digest what The Skys have delivered. An absolute stunner.