Radical Face: Ghost
Morr Music

A bold departure from Ben Cooper's recent Electric President collaboration with Alex Kane, Ghost is a splendid song cycle by Cooper under the moniker Radical Face. Though the new album is more folk-oriented than the earlier release, it's similarly predicated upon emotive, vocal-based songwriting that variously calls to mind Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, and Ben Gibbard. The album's eleven ‘chamber folk' songs teem with chiming piano melodies, handclapping rhythms, rousing vocal choruses, accordions, and banjos. Despite the bedroom production style, with Cooper recording the album almost entirely alone in his small Jacksonville Beach, Florida recording studio, Ghost's sound is often epic in scope with string arrangements building to gloriously celebratory levels; at the same time, moments abound that are as intimate as a campfire hymn. Lyrically, the songs center on the idea of houses haunted by ghosts, the memories of those still living within them, or those returning home after long absences (“Homesick” closes the album with the harmonies of restless spirits serenaded by a dusty old piano). Despite numerous instances of uplift, a melancholic feel permeates the material (song titles like “Winter Is Coming” suggest as much while the wheeze of accordion tones colours many songs with loneliness too), giving it a depth and resonance it would lack otherwise; the funereal lurch “Sleepwalking” stands out as especially affecting in this regard.

January 2007