Thursday, May 24, 2012

Record review: Exit Ghost - 'Move Alone'

By Sasha Geffen

Exit Ghost have always been good at stretching a note. Their ineffable likability comes not from their ability to craft unique or intricate musical patterns, but to take the ones you've heard a thousand times and imbue them with a very particular glow. 

Not an easy feat considering the ever-multiplying alt-country scene of the Midwest, but Exit Ghost stomp, romp and jangle all over their debut LP as if no one had ever welded a violin to a Stratocaster. Classical strings and glockenspiels lilt in and out of guitar noise, but they're couched in enough dusty air to avoid the tarnishing archetype of the barnyard rock band--even when frontman Evan Holmes waxes lyrical about the steel silos that stud the Midwestern roadsides. 

With a couple very solid EPs to rub together, Exit Ghost were ready to move on into the space of the album. On their first full-length, they evolve from the familiar terrain of straight, bombastic folk rock to deeper and more resonant compositions.

Opener "Hang the Lights" thuds in with warm, heavy chord progressions threaded with bright single-coil leads. Like a National song glazed with country twang, "Lights" stretches its own simplicity into a raw and earnest plea. Tonally, there's nothing here that's especially new, but by the time Holmes's vocals crack from muted croon into his signature wicker croak, we know we're at least in the midst of something real.

And really, it's the vox that push Move Alone past well-rounded competence into unshakable charm. Holmes delivers a slangy yelp that might be grating if he didn't mean everything he sang so damn much. It's a real challenge not to stay excited throughout the duration of the record. Every sound inside this simple world bursts, flickers and whoops like a kid on an exceptionally good Christmas morning. For Exit Ghost, there's no such thing as boredom. There's no slack and no ennui. There's just the bustling landscape of Chicago and the world around it, a world full of startling pathways provided we can just launch enough energy into them. 

From the locomotive "Darien" with its raw feedback whorls to the sour twang of "Like I Did Before," we're along for a swift ride atop a seemingly tireless engine. It's only the very last track that lets up, the piano ballad "Great Lakes Steamer"--ironically, the only song actually named after a vehicle. Sweet and satisfyingly sentimental, it settles into a lullaby's timbre to put the record to sleep. A good thing, too--it must be exhausted. 

Move Alone is now available on iTunes.

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