Ghost Stories | Quixoticism (Sonic Boom Recordings)

cd_ghoststoriesWhatever comparisons one wants to apply—and jeez, there's so many trendy artists out there to name-drop—Quixoticism succeeds because it lacks any of the pretensions that so often scour records of this type.

 

 

 

 

Pop connoisseurs, be warned: January 23 marks the day when your heads will explode. On a crowded release day that sees fresh albums from the Shins, Deerhoof, and Of Montreal, indie record rats are going to hoard enough smart and edgy hooks to last them through the remainder of winter. So it's more or less guaranteed that this release from Ghost Stories (aka songwriter Ron Lewis) will go practically unnoticed, and not just because of its lack of name recognition. While the aforementioned artists warp familiar pop sounds into strange and fascinating new styles, Lewis' homegrown project seems more than happy to bask in its straightforward, meat 'n' sweet potatoes take on pop rock. But who says that's a sin?

Lewis has built a distinguished rap sheet over his musical career, including collaborations with Colin Meloy and the Fruit Bats. Clearly, he's learned a bit from each artist with whom he's played. Quixoticism's "The Black Hand," with its punchy, marching beat and ringing surf guitar, sounds like a page right out of the Decemberists' playbook. The quieter acoustic numbers on the album, meanwhile, recall fresh Fruit Bats guano—don't worry, I'm trying to be clever here, not insulting. But whatever comparisons one wants to apply—and jeez, there's so many trendy artists out there to name-drop—Quixoticism succeeds because it lacks any of the pretensions that so often scour records of this type. It's like the musical loves of Lewis' life refracted through his own songwriting smarts.

Following the example of his cohorts and idols, Lewis crams most of his best material onto the disc's first half. "Catacombs" begins the album as a run-of-the-mill earnest acoustic number. But then it begins to live up to its title, guiding the listener through echoing, mellotron-backed bridge sections, before ending with a hopeful upswell of "na na" vocals and wistful whistling. It leads straight into "The Upper Ten," a cheeky rocker that delights in its left-of-center chord progression. Lewis couples it with "The Lower Five," another slow drifter that feels like the sound of the album trying to catch its breath. "You Wear It Like a Stained Glass Window" closes out the opening suite with some of the album's most abrasive and arresting guitar work, illustrating how dissonance can work wonders within the context of a pop song.

The rest of the record more or less splits its time between sonic sunshine and gloom, but nothing really rises to the accomplishments of the opening set of tunes. In some ways, Quixoticism works pretty well as the title for this record. Here's an album that hearkens back to a simpler time, when an artist didn't need krautrock or euro-disco influences to garner attention. It was about the tunes, man! So if Ron Lewis continues his quest to rekindle the old values of indie pop…well, of course he'll fail, but it'll be fun to watch him try. B- | Jeremy Goldmeier

RIYL: Rogue Wave, Fruit Bats

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