It’s a catch-22 really, when there’s a chance to review an album by a band whose influences are all of your favourite bands. On the one hand you wonder, “will they be as good as all of my favourite bands?” But on the other you worry, “what if they really, really aren’t?”
Inevitably there’s an immediate attraction and almost heard-this-before fondness to I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here, the debut offering from Southend’s Ghost Music. I don’t mean that it’s derivative. I mean, it’s like bumping into an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. The album’s opener Home Dog, with it’s simple acoustic chords, bright springy reverb from the electric guitar, straight percussion, and doubled vocals, is like a great big hug.
The added charm of the occasional guitar note bent almost of out key (This Kingdom One) and talking in the background coming through in the mix (Gurl in a Whirl) give it a sense of unrefined beauty and warmth.
Heart Shaped Holiday, with its reversed sounds and tight vocal harmonies, stands out in the middle of the album, maintaining the emotive mood established early on, but it’s Queen of England that has me coming back over and over again. One of the few tracks to let a single vocal breathe and take centre stage, it’s a beautiful, woozy, dream-like three minutes. The clean, crisp notes that appear in the guitar and a brass harmony towards the end make me set up a ‘songs of 2018 playlist’ – the first being already accounted for. Bonus points for the line “you’ve turned into a hippy and there’s nothing worse than that”.
Obvious comparisons to Galaxie 500 and Mojave 3 are warranted (and easy to make) but Ghost Music have a feeling owed to contemporary artists like Ultimate Painting or the softer parts of Summer Sun-era Yo La Tengo.
For me, the album drifts off a little towards the end, though that’s maybe just to do with how the tracks are ordered. After the big opening of the first three songs, which really pull you in, the last three leave me feeling a little flat. But maybe that’s the whole point?
I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here is the sound of a band comfortable knowing what they wanted to achieve and how to get it. So why not look up your old friend and spend some time with them?
I Was Hoping You’d Pass By Here was out on Arlen on 19th January 2018.