Review: Urban Ghost "Stranded in a Foreign Land"
Urban ghost is a throwback and a continuation of an age-old concept: the straightforward prettiness of a background band, pushed to the foreground. With this, their first full length record, UG delivers a cooled out cluster of nine songs that deal with everything from relationships, unrequited love, and the lifelong labor of searching for meaning. The songs come across like butter, a neo-soul ride in a love boat through the emotional and saxaphonal quandaries of Sam Morrison, the lyricist / sax player / vocalist whose distinctive sonic qualities drift out over the gorgeous organ and guitar tones. Everything is anchored by the solid, diverse beats of the rhythm sections’ rocking exuberance. The album is slow, but it’s a slow build. This is the music that plays in your head whenever you see a gazebo and it’s raining.
The Record opens up with “Falling Away,” an instant earworm. The organ starts jaunty, and gets serious as the lyrical grit introduces itself with the smooth polyrhythmic groove and a killer hook. Urban Ghost’s steeze is easy to identify in the video for album single “Magic.”
“Little Red Devil” is a ballad to an insignificant other that could either become significant, or end in disaster, wrapped up in a bow of a Lewisian discussion of romantic archetypes. “Wentagaro Marschulio” is a gorgeous instrumental standout that begins ghostly and continues into a schizophrenic genre-bender that goes between punk energy, big band grandeur and prog absurdity, but never sacrifices tightness. No one listening to this record can say that Urban Ghost doesn’t have chops enough to talk about whatever they want. After the fourth track, “All Sides”, the album takes a decidedly more proggy turn.
In “Desert Ale,” the musical progeny of Gotye and 90s Sting recalls a search for meaning in a lush desert of earthy hand percussion and those same inimitable sax licks that bring you back to Bowie’s latest. The lyrics chronicle a search for meaning, and what lessons were learned along the way. This is an already trippy records ayahuasca anthem. “Sandy” is the most minimal, and perhaps the most powerful song on the record, seeing only piano and vocals spill heart juice and lyrics about a romantic separation. “American Ghost” brings us into a straighter, 90’s esque rock jam that eschews the wandering structures of the rest of the record for a contagious riff and big old grungy drums.
The band has been busy in Seattle, playing venues like Nectar Lounge, Vermillion and The Sunset Tavern, with more to come soon. If you’re trying to see Urban Ghost, they will be making a special appearance with Industrial Revelation at Nectar Lounge on November 14th. Till then, you can buy the album directly from Urban Ghost’s Bandcamp, and keep up to date on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.