Sunday, May 30, 2021

Holiday Ghosts hit new Heights on Impressive Third Album

Katja Rackin and Sam Stacpoole recently moved from Falmouth to the shining lights of South-Coast musical hot spot Brighton and much of what you hear on their outstanding new album – ‘North Street Air’ – encapsulates their new life in the big city. 

The pair are often joined by session and live musicians, many of whom help compose the songs found on the album.

It is that exact sense of camaraderie and communal spirit that is found so often on the album and which makes it one of the most endearing albums of 2021 thus far. 

Opening the album is a track that anyone who has rented will feel some sympathy with. ‘Mr. Herandi’ is a lambasting of the landlords that often hold such a negative sway over the lives of many throughout the country, whether it be Brighton or Burnley, most people have felt the sense of anger coursing through the song’s lyrics. The 60’s inspired track has the Holiday Ghosts thinking of their Landlord “Sitting in Spain with his bank account” whilst our protagonists freeze in a broken shower. The Pixies inspired vocals and overall production add a melancholic element to the track that highlights the resignation of the renting classes. 

‘Off-Grid’ is a vintage Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired three-and-a-half-minute ode to the joys of switching off. In an interview with Clunk, lead singer Sam claims it came from a sense of unease in the packed heat of Brighton during the summer of 2019 where he found comfort in cycling and swimming. The infectious track is elevated further by the pair’s excellent vocal chemistry, with the lyrics rolling along with the tapping of the drumbeat. 

The punk ideals of ‘Blood Orange’ with its driving drums and distorted guitars are of great contrast to the title track of the album. The spaghetti western feel to ‘North Street Air’ makes it a standout song on an album full of highs. The galloping of the drums evokes scenery of a horse in the desert whilst the spoken vocals and lyrics of mundane life are of startling difference to the sun-soaked sound of the song. 

The Fall inspired ‘Bathing suit’ with a chorus extremely reminiscent of ‘Victoria’ tells the story of gender freedom and a carefree attitude to life. “She’s just one of the boys” proclaims the band on the joyous two-and-a-half-minute track. 

The longest track on the album, the broody ‘3rd Dream’, sees the band experiment with a more alternative 90’s sound – the song wouldn’t sound out of place in a 90’s coming of age movie – with its heavily distorted shimmering guitar and acoustic riffs. 

‘Makin A Fool’ sees the band delve into Country and Blues with twanging guitars and wailing harmonicas over a walking bassline straight out of a Johnny Cash song, whilst the energetic ‘Total Crisis’ shows the band experimenting with 60’s inspired riffs over punk vocals.  

The country theme continues on the pop fuelled ‘Leaving Today’. The sense of disillusionment that often accompanies the grind of working in your twenties is felt acutely on the track. “We were pulling on something that just went away” complains Holiday Ghosts, echoing the pain felt by those who’s dreams seem to fade as adulthood takes hold. 

The hardship of a mundane life is again found on the toe-tapping ‘Told My Baby’. The deadpan delivery of “I don’t wanna be a pay the rent and have no life til next month start again” will hit anyone who works a job they hate to pay the bills like a tonne of bricks. The conveyance of the song echoes the finality of the corporate career ladder that many embark on in their twenties. With bills to pay and a life to live it’s hard to jump off the ride and, as this song so accurately sums up, it’s a ride that many don’t want to be on. 

The Katja Rackin vocal performance on the sun-soaked ‘Glue’ makes it a particular high point on the album. The themes of disillusionment and the beauty in the mundane that are seeped throughout the album are found again on the mellow track. “There’s nothing to feel when are feelings aren’t real” sings Katja, yet the softly spoken vocals and major chord progression can’t help but bring a smile to the face of any listener. 

The album closer is a crooner inspired love song straight out of the Elvis Presley song book. With its dream-like keyboard lines and soft drumming, ‘Wallpaper’ is of distinct contrast to the often negative and disenchanted themes of previous songs. The beautiful sentiment found in lyrics such as “I am the eyes that follow where you have been / I am the Lips that form the words you can’t win” make ‘Wallpaper’ one of the better love songs released this year. The delivery of the vocals, with a soft-spoken presentation that is a trademark of the band, turn what may have been an underwhelming album closer into another stand-out track. 

Holiday Ghosts latest album is not pushing any new ideas in the pantheon of alternative British music; however, the world-weary lyrics leave an impression of a band whose creative vision needs the depression of the outside world to truly find their feet. With ‘North Street Air’ we find a band truly at the top of their game, and it’s a game they play well. 

James Ogden 

Image: Holiday Ghosts PR


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