Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Battles On by The Ghost is Dancing

One of my favourite things in music is to be surprised. Be it an opening band, a song on the radio, or a spontaneously bought CD, few things can match that feeling of surprise or discovery. I mention this because not too long ago I was listening to CBC Radio 3 and a song came on by a band I hadn't heard of before, The Ghost Is Dancing. The song was their single, Battles On, and I was immediately taken by it; so much so that I decided, on the strength of that one song, to pick up their album of the same name. After a bit of a kerfuffle -- the Sonic Unyon website didn't have it for sale, despite being released... then the email I sent the support was undeliverable... so I e-mailed the band directly, and fine folks they are got it sorted out from their end and I was able to purchase one -- I got my grubby little paws on the album, and wow. Just wow. It would be easy to liken this six piece from Toronto to bands like Arcade Fire or Hey Rosetta!, perhaps... and while they may have a similar grandiose sound to them, that is not an apt comparison at all. The Ghost is Dancing has a unique sound of their own.

From the instant the album opens with Dream of a Failed Architect, you're drawn in by their lush and rich sound and insanely catchy hooks. It is a perfect opening song and tells you exactly what is to come in the next 48 minutes. The energy doesn't relent for Battles On, the aforementioned first single and song that initially won me over. Both songs start out powerful then do nothing but build to a climactic finish. In fact, that is a trait that many songs on the album share. Rogues & Heroes brings things down a notch, starting calm and peaceful before exploding with soaring guitars and anthemic horns, which leads perfectly into This Thunder & Stick Together, another pair of songs that start out modest then climb to great heights.
The next track, Louis Riel, one of my favourites from the album, sees singers Jamie Matechuk and Lesley Davies harmonizing perfectly with calm verses and launching into epic choruses, in a song that almost leaves you breathless. (Besides, who doesn't love songs referencing historic Canadian figures?) The piano driven Strange Times gives you a much needed rest, and is a song I can't help but call Sigur Rós-ian in its beauty. Battles Off is, as you might expect from the title, a nice companion to Battles On and Was A Universe provides the proverbial calm before the storm.
The storm being Flashing Pictures; with a musical ebb and flow, it exemplifies the bands sound in one epic eight & a half minute song. The song rises and falls, crammed full of so many ideas that by the end of it you may not even realize it was one song. Yet somehow it never collapses under its own weight, all transitions seem perfectly natural and never jarring. As the song comes to a majestic end, you might feel as if that is all, but somehow the band still has more to give. Old Children is musically opposite, with the light piano and almost haunting voice of Davies driving the first half, then slowly rising to a climax.
And then the albums closer... Without Friends. I can not say enough about this song. It begins slowly with just Matechuk and some light instruments, but at the cue "without friends I'd die" it absolutely explodes with everyone joining in, and for the rest of the song it's a chorus of group vocals, emphasizing the point. The song is incredibly powerful and uplifting, and full of more emotion in two and a half minutes than some bands manage to put into a whole album. It is quickly becoming one of my favourite songs, not just of the year, but of all time ever.

And in the end, those are perfect ways to describe the album, and the band, overall. The music is beautiful and uplifting with lyrics that are full of hope. The cliché about indie music is that it is full of a bunch of sad sack whiners, but nothing could be further from the truth here. There is joy here, an optimist. A sense that, despite hardships, if you battle on, if you "don't give up on the fight", and, of course, with your friends, everything will be all right.


Download Battles On

Download Louis Riel

Download Without Friends

Clicky to exchange monies for music

1 comment:

  1. I think you've covered a great deal about what I could say about the songs, so I'll just mention quickly, one of my favorite reviews yet!

    It's no small task to create genuine excitement, be it a band, an insight, or anything. That is exactly how I felt after reading this. GO 3AMR!!! :D

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