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Album Review: Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!

April 3, 2011

First published on The 405

Holy Ghost!

Holy Ghost! review

You can choose your friends, but not your family as the old adage goes. Holy Ghost! choose both it seems. The duo at the centre of the band, Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser, first met as seven year olds at Primary School in New York city, and twenty years later have released their debut self-titled album under this moniker (they briefly existed as Hip-hop outfit Automato prior to the inception of HG! in 2007 you see).

Holy Ghost!’s chosen family? The DFA family of course. Home to LCD Soundsystem, The Juan Maclean et al, Holy Ghost! continue in the luxurious vain of modern disco-pop that is unmistakably DFA, unmistakably New York. They have been prolific in their remixes of other bands work to date, the list reads as a who’s who of electro-pop; Cut Copy (who they are touring with currently), LCD Soundsystem, Phoenix, In Flagranti and an excellent deconstruction of Friendly Fires ‘On Board’, which was released as a split 12” with FF covering HG! In return; what’s more they even outwitted FF with their version, a testament to their ability.

So alright, they have the credentials, have the history. The album you’ll be happy to hear lives up this pre-amble and more – for the most. Fans will no doubt have heard some material from the album, having released a sprinkling of EP’s over the past three years; as such a welcoming familiarity is already established upon first listen. Opener and lead single ‘Do It Again’ signifies the albums intentions astutely; a laboured tempo that swaggers with aplomb as the four-to-the-floor disco beats grove underneath.

The beatific ‘Wait and See’ turns things up just a notch, the swagger truing into a strut – the melodic vocals of the chorus entering classic high-pitched disco mode. It’s all frighteningly infectious, light and the right side of frothy, ‘Hold my Breath’ continuing this hooky aesthetic; though another theme that runs through is the background of Frankel as a talented pianist, and this ear lends marvelously to the song structure and sheer upbeat catchiness of the well-honed package.

The smart production of the album is relatively sparse in terms of instrumentation, ‘Say my Name’ embodying this spacious, relatively simple yet smooth delivery. This is an ode HG!’s guide under the DFA family, Tim Goldsworthy, James Murphy and their own obvious talent and expertise for studio production. It’s refreshing to hear the sound of analogue synths, the result being that each effect, pedal and overall feel sounds warm, luxurious and less clinical that many contemporaries.

The influences in this respect are heavy on the late 70’s/early 80’s style of synths and electronics – artists such as Giorgio Moroder being used as a yardstick. So indebted to the past, that at times it’s hard to see their own contemporary stylings – but contradicting this is a definite nod to house that is evident.

‘Say my Name’ is also the kind of track – of which there are so many on the album – that contains oh-so-memorable, high-pitched disco-infused dreamy vocals that will have you crooning deafeningly around the house, the walls reverberating and cringing with your out-of-tune rendition; but you won’t care a jot as you’ll be having so much fun doing it. Think Michael Jackson, Talking Heads, classic disco numbers.

‘Jam for Jerry’ is a song about their dear friend Jerry Fuch formally of !!! and others who died in particularly tragic circumstances in 2009. A fitting tribute, it again features a melody of vocals in the chorus verging on the nostalgic, followed by a glowing outro not in keeping with the song, but it works. In fact, the album could arguably do with more of these variations; some more leftfield antics wouldn’t go a miss.

The track that helped propel Holy Ghost! to future DFA darlings, ‘Hold On’, still sounds as fresh as it did in 2007, the lyrics acting as a thumbprint to that of their album; being universal, instantly recognisable phrases, the way that all good dance, synth-pop lyrics should be. Come on, how could one not related to ‘I love the city/But I hate my job’? It’s consistent with the catchy carefree nature of the album.

Holy Ghost! have created 50 minutes of space disco that is hugely fun, and equally as contagious as a virus on a hot bus handle. It’s remarkably consistent throughout and certainly has enough breathing space between label mates such as Shit Robot (more chorus driven, dance-tastic) and The Juan Maclean (less clinical) – whilst sharing a kindred vision.

It’s unambiguously Holy Ghost! sounding; a remarkable positive for such a young act in the crowded field of electro-synth-pop sure, though it would have been pleasant to see a shade more variation over the course of the album if nit-picking. Though all that being said, shameless fun, to have shameful fun to.

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