When I read the info on The Ghosts I got excited. “They are a four piece who met when mutual friend Jon Brookes (The Charlatans) introduced singer/songwriter Alex Starling (formerly of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool) and drummer Ian Palmer back in December 2010.” I LOVED Ou Est Le Swimming Pool. In a big way. When the band dissolved after the tragedy of Charles Haddon’s suicide I was gutted. The band was just gaining the recognition and plaudits they deserved and it was all ended far too quickly and painfully. This project marks a new start and a recovery for Alex and you can hear that in the tracks. The mix of melodic guitar and the sound scapes created by the synths create a very earnest, driving backdrop to Starlings heartfelt vocals.
The new single ‘Ghosts’ is the opening track of the album. The repetitive guitar riff that opens the song is built up and up with layers of driving drums, bouncy keys and sweeping synth work. All of these elements combine to make a beautiful support for Starlings earnest vocals. His voice is clear and contains a purity that fits with the mood of this album: melancholic but hopeful. These tracks come from a dark place but are leading ultimately to a new happy one.
Most of the tracks on this album run along a similar thread and all mesh together in their similar sound. ‘Everything Will Do’ breaks from this though, its opening a sharp contrast from the tracks before it. The guitar riff at the opening is fast paced, very separate from the more echoing, gentle riffs of the rest of the album. The drums are a real focus on this track and the whole vibe is far rockier than other tracks. It really highlights the versatility of Starlings voice that it can work with so many different elements that are usually genre separated.
‘Scared’ is a delight. Quiet, neat and heartfelt, this is tucked away amongst far ‘bigger’ sounding tracks. It is gentle and people aware of Ou Est Le Swimming Pools history can’t help but wonder if this is about Charles. The strings that come in on the second chorus just add to the poignancy of this beauty and this is definitely a special track for me. It doesn’t get lost in its melancholic theme though, the instrumentation makes sure that this track doesn’t become too minor and its overall feel is uplifting, rather than sad.
Honest. That is what this album ultimately is. There is no pomp and circumstance, no fanfare to announce its arrival. It is just a quiet, heartfelt piece of music. And it’s a good one. If you let it be heard you will find an endearing little gem that will slot nicely into anyones record collection.