by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: May 22nd, 2014
The eponymous album by the shadowy character known as Billy Ghost is something of a diamond in the rough, if what is meant by “rough” is that deluge of DIY efforts from indie folk-rock singer/songwriters out there. Yes, thanks to modern technology virtually anyone can sit down with their own compositions, record the music, produce it, mix it and then put out their own CD. The downside, of course, it that, well, virtually anyone can sit with their own compositions, record the music….. OK, you get the picture. And it’s not hit and miss in equal measures. No, it’s overwhelmingly “miss”. So I guess that makes it all the more satisfying when a sole musician manages to hit it out of the park without the slightest bit of professional assistance.
BG presents us with a heady collection of songs about disillusionment set against a harsh, mainly seamy, urban backdrop. Mournful stuff all right, but the music itself is less bleak. “People Miss Being Young” starts things off with some fine fuzzed-out guitar leading into dreamy pop-psychedelia. After that the album settles down into a more low-key groove. Not that it’s boring, mind you – not unless you consider talents as diverse as Iron & Wine, Belle & Sebastian, Kurt Vile and Radiohead boring. That’s not to say that BG’s sound is derivative – he may have his influences but he doesn’t wear them on his sleeve.
The music is intriguing and varied enough as it is to keep your interest, but with the songs clocking in at average length of about two minutes the album whisks you along at such a brisk pace that you’re never allowed an instant to get bogged down. And BG also draws you in on another level – there is such an intimate quality to his subdued vocals that you feel compelled to lean in and let him whisper his words like a secret.
Other than “People Miss Being Young” standout tracks include “Fire Hair Echo”, which features impenetrable lyrics (“the fading captain read the palm trees in the shadows”) and a squealing guitar solo reminiscent of Neil Young (you just knew his name was going to come up eventually). Another is “Madelaine”, a bittersweet Beatlesque tune with some lovely xylophone work. At one point Madelaine is told “don’t explain your secret self, don’t let it get away.” Perhaps a telling statement from a songwriter who goes by the name of Billy Ghost?
‘Billy Ghost‘ is a lo-fi gem, ranking among the best indie singer/songwriter efforts so far this year. Not every song is a classic, naturally, but don’t be surprised if you find two or three of the tracks on your favourite mix this summer.