Ghost Heart – The Tunnel (album)

Ghost Heart - The Tunnel coverThe old adage about writing about music being akin to dancing about architecture is a difficult one to argue against, at least in part because music is an art form which depends so much upon the emotional response of the listener. This in itself depends greatly upon a range of factors such as the mood the listener is in at the time, their prior experience with a form of music (under-familiarity can lead to an inability to interpret a generic form or over-familiarity can breed contempt, for example), whether they value technical proficiency over clumsy passion or vice versa, and so on and on.

At the same time we have to try because writing about music is the best way to simply and quickly convey information about it. We can try to articulate the reasons why we do or don’t like something, why we do or don’t feel someone else should listen to something, and – living as we do in this near-global commodity-oriented network of late capitalism – why it is or is not worth buying. Even if we can’t accurately sum up our thoughts or feelings about a record, and even if we sometimes treat things unfairly for comedic effect, and even if we sometimes make fools of ourselves, it’s worth trying, because it’s simply not possible for someone to listen to everything they might like. We can all find value in reviews as a mechanism to sift through available music and present things we might like, and we can all identify reviewers with whom we share tastes and, as a result, come to value their recommendations.

But sometimes there is just not a vast amount to say. Shifting abruptly away from the very generalised ideas I’ve been writing about above, I feel it’s only fair to throw up my hands and say that this is an unfair review for Ghost Heart because I’ve hardly written about them. This isn’t because they aren’t worth writing about – I like this record – but because I can’t think of a great deal to write about. That’s probably to my detriment as a reviewer, not Ghost Heart as a band.

Let’s tick off a few boxes. First, the biography. Ghost Heart are from Grand Rapids in Michigan, a place which has a beautiful name. That’s all I know about it. According to the press release I was sent, when the band formed in 2008 they all got matching tattoos. A bold move, but it signifies their seriousness. That’s all I know about the band.

Second, what does this sound like? Well, the press release says there are bits of Animal Collective (I can see that in the sense of gentle, ambient songs, but Ghost Heart are more direct, less meandering and less, well, boring than I find the Collective), Broken Social Scene (which I can also see; the last remark about directness still applies, but here I might also say that Ghost Heart are less bold and exploratory than BSS or AC), Caribou, Grizzly Bear and so on. Does that put your in the right area? The reference points may be useful, but they’ve not helped me write much about the band.

What do I think about it? Well, I dig it: it’s good mellow music with some energy and emotion to it. The rhythms sometimes manage to be entrancing in a gently hooky way; not in a powerful way, but just so that you don’t want those rhythms to end. There are some songs that are very soothing and slow which showcase the singer’s pipes, which produce some nice vocals and, at times, poetic lyrics (“my hands were ships sailing your body” from ‘Human Elements’). There are some songs which are a little more stomping, laying down pounding drums and simple hooks from the guitars. At times there’s a faint tribal edge to the rhythm and instrumentation that recalls Vampire Weekend, another reference I now feel like I’ve cribbed from the press release. I should just not read the damn things. They make everything I write feel lazy, even if I’d have written it anyway.

To draw together this tortured mess of a review: Ghost Heart’s The Tunnel is a good album which I like. It is very mellow and soothing and I’ve found it lovely to listen to whilst travelling, or working, or just relaxing and letting my mind wander. It’s not pompous and its ambitions hold short of arch pretension. It’s nice music. If you like nice music, listen to it.

Does that seem fair?

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2 Responses to “Ghost Heart – The Tunnel (album)”
  1. CJ says:

    I can see it’s done for comedic effect but I don’t think that the monkey pee thing is “unfair” on Jet.

  2. Shaun CG says:

    Haha, well, I’m not a fan either, but I was trying to present my feelings toward the issue of objectivity and subjectivity in reviewing music… and also that ultimately the best writers may have something to say about everything but the rest of us sometimes run into limitations.