That Ghost – [Album]

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Being seventeen years old was fun, wasn’t it? It's a brilliant time for most; the light at the end of the tunnel that was high school was becoming visible, long drives on errands still seem like fun and hope was beginning to emerge on that whole acne front. Like most kids, I spent my time playing Halo and listening to an inordinate amount of Bob Dylan.

But while all of us were fragging virtual aliens and digging up records, Ryan Schmale was locked up in his room, cutting albums.

Everyone else who feels like an underachiever, please raise your hand.

Everyone’s hands up? Yes? Good.

Schmale is the sole man behind the band That Ghost, a project with a wide sound and three albums already completed which were all concocted in his California bedroom before he could legally vote. Now old enough to be politically active (but still too young to drink at some the bars at which he plays), That Ghost presents a collection of eleven tracks of lo-fi loveliness entitled Songs Out Here.

Songs Out Here presents itself as a broad, rambling album with more breadth and depth than is seen or heard in most bedroom recordings. While still retaining a certain level of coziness via fuzzy, distorted vocals and intimate guitar work that belies a certain comfort level, Schmale spreads out the sound with loosely strung drums, jangling bells, and lazily plucked guitar strings. Tracks like “After Passing” feature a heavily trodden beat pulled along with bells that don’t so much twinkle as crack; sounding more like spurs in a movie than bells on an album, all attached at length so Schmale’s warbling, very M. Ward-esque voice. This is a song you imagine dramatic westerns being written to.

But That Ghost doesn’t just dwell in the realms of indie shoe gazing. Certain cuts make use of the space afforded by Schmale’s composition to mosey into different genres. “To Like You” opens with some heavy Fifties hairspray-meets-surfer vibes, but is undeniably more lo-fi than many of the most dedicated beach bands, and “An Only Son” reaches into the more folksy areas of rock in a very She & Him fashion; layering guitar work with singing that would make Buddy Holly smile.

Despite the travels into music’s other stylistic camps, Songs Out Here takes care to always keep one foot in the realm of lo-fi shoe-gazer-meets-indie, where Schmale is clearly most comfortable. As a result, the album is a slower, sleepier affair that doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere, but enjoys the sights along the way. While the speed and sound stay reasonably consistent, it is in keeping with very spirit of lo-fi DIY recordings. It’s smooth and transient and intimate; it hearkens to musicians like M. Ward, Buddy Holly and Elliot Smith; and it takes listeners back to teenage evenings spent poring over obscure but crucial records. It’s an album crafted by bedroom recordings for bedroom recordings, and that’s why it works. 



Songs Out Here
comes out on March 1, 2011. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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