Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Have You Seen My Ghost's Dreaming in Existence

New Have You Seen My Ghost promo
After spending so much time looking at textbooks, it's great to be able to get back to being able to review new albums and releases. I think it's only fitting to start the summer reviews off with a review of a new EP by one of my favorite groups from here in Atlanta: Have You Seen My Ghost. An eclectic mix of screamo-punk and emo-pop, Have You Seen My Ghost are something special, and it's still surprising to me that these guys aren't racking up hits on Purevolume as fast as some other groups. As much as I loved HYSMG's previous releases like the Black EP and Ghost Kids, I love what they've done on their new recording. EXIST is an EP filled with new directions for the Ghost guys, and one that I'm more than a little excited to hear.
Right from the start, Have You Seen My Ghost start their new EP with a departure from their hardcore screamo-punk sound and opt for one that's focused more on underlying melody and rhythm. With a sound that I can only characterize as dark-pop and romantcore, HYSMG start blazing a trail that is impossible not to follow and explore.
The first song on the four-track EP is "Darkest Days," a song that is from the start something new from Have You Seen My Ghost. The studio production on this recording helps to shape the depth and reach of HYSMG's lyrics, and as the guitars make their grand entrance, Lee Jennings voice comes through the speakers in an epic rush. As Mike Gardella picks up guitar responsibilities for the EP, the sound  is different than what I've heard before: rather than the punk-driven chords I've heard on earlier HYSMG recordings, here Gardella decides that the sound he wants is more epic, more grand. As much as I loved the guitar work on the earlier works, the work here is new, tentative, pensive, and I can't unglue my ears from the speakers. As the guitar notes prance across Grayson Blanchette's bass lines, Eric Dolive's drums create wave after wave of rhythm. The end of the song is brilliant, as in an epic crescendo, Jennings' voice and HYSMG's music come crashing down in a romantic grace. The first new song I've heard from Have You Seen My Ghost and I can't catch my breath. Amazing.
"Passengers" works along the same lines as "Darkest Days:" it's dark undertones are highlighted by the intriguing pop polish that HYSMG execute on it. With an interlude that plays host to a great group vocal and pensive mood, "Passengers" provides a stage for Dolive's drumming that it benefits from. Sprinkling the guitar riffs with rolls and high-hat fills, Dolive lends to "Passengers" a quality that it would have missed without it. A solid song with a great rhythm and musical execution, "Passengers" is another example of HYSMG's versatile song style.
As much as I loved "Passengers" and "Darkest Days" though, my favorite song on the EP by far is "Dreaming." Starting with an interestingly creepy guitar-note progression, "Dreaming" crashes into existence amidst a whirlwind of melodic power and brash grace. The lyrics of "Wake up, it's just a dream" speak to me on a level I can't even explain, and the more I listen to this song, the more I'm addicted. Jennings' voice and Blanchette's bass lines are crisp and powerful laced between Gardella's grasping and solid guitar chords and notes. If Have You Seen My Ghost didn't have me hooked before, they do now, and as I listen to the notes play out and then fade, the only thing I can think of is how much I'd bet that this song could take them to the next level in their careers. Just as I heard something special on their song "Gravity" when I first heard it, so too I hear that special something on "Dreaming" that transcends musical genre into a new domain that artists are lucky if they ever find. Definitely my choice for lead-single from the new EP, and clearly one of HYSMG's best efforts ever, "Dreaming" is epic is its power and proves that new directions can sometimes yield gold.
Rounding off the EP with "Between an Ambulance and Forever," Have You Seen My Ghost touch on new levels that make their music all the more intriguing and unique. Whereas many groups find a safe mode and stay there, HYSMG have ventured out of their comfort zone and experimented with something new to create an album that is at its core unforgettable. If I were one of the Ghost guys, I would certainly be proud of my performance here, as it is something that is filled with drive and passion.    
One of the things I loved about this band when I saw them live was their steadfast dedication to their fans. HYSMG wants their fans to get so into their music, that I literally saw them bring everyone in the audience up onto the stage for their encore. As Lee Jennings and Grayson Blanchette played their guitars around the twirling hands of their fans, the only thing I could think was that I wished every concert was like that. EXIST as a recording works much the same way: its music is so all-encompassing that I can't help but feel I'm up on stage with the Ghost guys, rocking out as they play me into oblivion. If nothing else, Have You Seen My Ghost have succeeded in making a recording that pulls the listener so far in that they feel as if the band is playing right to them. As I close my eyes, a dark symphony of melodic grace and rhythmic romance appears before my eyes in a technicolor tapestry. With the title as EXIST, Have You Seen My Ghost make it clear that this is an EP of philosophical proportions, tackling deep-set emotions in musical harmony and telling a story that needs to be told. Most certainly one of my favorite new releases of the summer, Have You Seen My Ghost's EP EXIST is going to open doors for these Marietta natives that weren't even visible before. With a recording as powerful as this, Have You Seen My Ghost are on their way. It's only a matter of time now.  

Key Tracks from EXIST: "Dreaming," "Darkest Days," "Passengers," Between an Ambulance and Forever" 

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