Cutting-edge rock buffs who've already moved past Arctic Monkeys, The Subways, and every other next big UK rock thing should keep on moving across the channel to Denmark, to start the cult of Figurines. The Danish band's fantastic second album, Skeleton, is the stuff indie-rock fantasies are built on, with a gripping, theatrical sound that's like a hybrid of early Built To Spill and pre-Soft Bulletin Flaming Lips, adorned with pieces of the old Neil Young albums that inspired those bands in the first place. Skeleton opens with "Race You," a twangy piano ballad that wouldn't sound out of place on Young's After The Gold Rush or Harvest, and when the energy level rises on subsequent songs like "The Wonder" and "All Night," Figurines tap into that great reckless wow that's drawn out nearly every nerdy crank with a guitar.
Skeleton's songs bounce up and down, unfussy and unhurried, changing tempos and stacking hooks, creating a feeling of honest yearning. The biggest knock against Figurines is that they aren't especially novel—unless producing a record that jumps back 10 years in rock history instead of 20 can be counted as novel. Regardless, the songs' quality trumps any debates over their relevance. The winding melody and percussive jangle of "Silver Ponds," the low jerk and rocketing chorus of "Ambush," the R.E.M.-style balladry of "Rivalry," and the casual pop of "I Remember" stand up to the songwriting and performance of just about any other hyped-up album of the last three years. Skeleton is hitting the racks without a lot of advance buzz, but that's only because Figurines has the amiability and grace of a band too good to be pushy.