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The World Is Outside is the first, and despite its being released in 2007, only album to date released by Ghosts. With an easily accessible, vocal-friendly and open sound, this indie band have an ideal profile for festival popularity and this debut album encapsulates that.
Ghosts are Simon Pettigrew (vocals and guitar), Jonny Harris (drums), Robbie Smith (bass) and Mark Treasure (keyboard).
They are an indie rock-pop style band in a similar vein to Keane and Thirteen Senses, who ranked highly in the BBC Sound of 2007 Poll.
The World Is Outside is named after the lead single released by Ghosts in their most successful year of 2007. At the time they received favourable air time and reviews via the usual mediums, such as radio stations like XFM and music publications. The single of the same name had an upbeat, strongly produced, polished indie rock-pop single and this album continues in that vein at a time when similar band such as Air Traffic and Athlete were enjoying the popularity of this style of music.
One notable aspect of the style of this album is that - whilst it is far from a constant regurgitation of "Shiny Happy People" or anything like it - the tracks are largely feel-good; I can't speak for people who have seen the band live but in recorded form their album is well produced and as such makes for an ideal album for summer days and easy listening.
These days the album can be bought on Amazon for £4.99 and despite the initial popularity, the band have yet to release a follow up, although I have read that new material has been published on their myspace profile earlier in 2011.
The album cover features what looks like the structure of a blue ceiling-hung mobile or a similar decorative item; the background is predominantly black with a doorway in soft focus in the background and the band name dominates the centre of the design with the album title below it in white font. It's not the most inspiring artwork, but the structure on the front runs throughout their single releases thus giving some recognisable coherence to the releases from this album.
Stay The Night:
An abrupt, upbeat drum-lead intro to the album sets the tone for the upbeat tracks; Pettigrew's vocals kick in shortly after in classic "indie" style; not flawless but in good company with the work of the band as a whole. Stay The Night goes through one verse before building straight into a catchy, agreeable chorus that is executed flawlessly in album form by the band and producers and which, if executed with the same flamboyance in live conditions, must be an ideal festival afternoon highlight in summer if they ever return to the musical ranks; with lyrics like "I gave you the night, cause I know what I've found, I think of you and my heart beats a little louder", we're far from Radiohead's introspective heaviness here, but the overall jauntiness saves the track from being too cute to be credible. With hints of jazzy beats and just enough emotion allowed into the vocals to remain in keeping with the tone of the song, it's no wonder that this one made it to single status.
The next track structurally follows the form set by Stay The Night; a slightly stripped down intro with the introduction of the vocals following soon after, followed up by delicate but precise piano influence and a gradual build up of the overall sound before the song kicks off in it's true upbeat sound. After initially swelling up, the overall sound is stripped down slightly just before launching into the catchy chorus to emphasise the switch of tempo and wholehearted sound; this is a more full bodied track than the opener and the chorus is, in my opinion, more full-bodied and faceted. It's catchy and agreeable and again the level of production may be too glossy for some indie fans but, given the style of this band's music, that must surely open their market to less ardent music fans - heaven forbid the dinner party crowd might like them?? Lyrically not dissimilar to its predecessor - "and if you're asking me to stay, don't turn your back and walk away" - again we're not dealing with anything groundbreaking, but then do we need to when we're probably opening a bottle of wine at a BBQ?
The World Is Outside:
My personal favourite of the singles to have come from this album; again the structure to the song of a well-executed intro heralding the flawlessly recorded lyrics but this one to me has more lyrical depth, more poise and slightly subtler layers between the sounds allowing more focus on the vocals; provided this band can play as well live as you would hope of that one that has been together for years, I imagine this is a treat to see in person. There's energy behind it despite it being a little less high-production than the previous tracks, although some might argue that it never builds to the same conclusions.
Eponymous track starts very elegantly, with electro details to the intro and stripped down acoustic notes before - that's right, Pettigrew kicks in. Shortly after there's a more punchy contribution from the bass and drums before everything is knitted together. This one would intrigue me if I get the chance to see the band live; would they be able to put this one, much more stripped down and basic than the previous tracks, together with the required elegance? Mid-song there's a hint of Ben Folds-esque lightly jazzy beats underlying the more delicate parts of the track.
The vocals are virtually on top of any intro here, mournful and accompanied with basic, sparing piano keys. A slower, introspective sound before a build up to an orchestrally elaborate, yet elegant, chorus which then dips back down lightly poppy, lyrically light interludes and swoops along between the styles throughout before further illustrating the sound with more electro details in the latter stages. Not convinced by the abrupt ending though.
Slow and graceful intro; this one is probably the most stripped-down, gentle track here. The vocals are restrained - which unfortunately lends them to a degree of nasal quality in some fleeting instances - and again it is a well executed effort but for me this lacks the imagination of other tracks here. Of course the band are to be commended for showing what they can do but this one does, for me, feel like the clichéd tracks in albums that are just there to help compose the album as a whole; background music between the moments that otherwise lead the way. It does build into something more whole bodied, thus allowing the singer to utilise his voice more appropriately, but the first half of this song lets down what follows in my opinion, which is a shame; there's real attention to detail and talent in what is largely a lyric-free conclusion. The ending also does little for the overall impact of the track.
And after that inconclusive efforts comes Stop, straight away a more jaunty, upbeat, light track which marks a contrast you probably would be distracted by if you were hearing this in the background for the first time. As close to this album comes to raw production or style is the chorus, where the vocals are styled to be choppy on the main lyrics but softened by backing lyrics. For me the punchy chorus sound doesn't last long enough before resorting to the style of sound that marked the intro, but when it is there it's an enjoyably slightly darker sound. I do mean slightly though...arguably this track is disjointed but I enjoy the variety and energy of it. Another one I'd enjoy seeing live and would hope not to be let down by.
Drum-driven, snappy intro with the vocals on top straight away. Another example of the band trying to show a bit more depth and a few more facets; this one has a strong beat and that carries through from the intro to the first verse. The vocals move well with the overall sound building the song but before long those soft, elegant and intricate sounds creep in again connecting verse to chorus and before you know it, Pettigrew has let those vocals go soft again and the initial drive has softened again. The jaunty, abrupt beat returns soon after but I think that for me personally the contrast between the two sounds lets down what could have been a really fun track.
Further And Further Away:
Fast paced intro - think Embrace in their "Out of Nothing" phase - with soft vocals, quickly and elegantly building into a pop-driven, swift moving track with both top and backing vocals softened to blend well with the overall sound.
Wrapped Up In Little Stars:
A more experimental and raw beginning; a slow burning track that clocks up well over five minutes. After about two minutes there are signs of pace gathering but rather than growing into a grandiose orchestral number in the style of Embrace's Near Life, when the beat changes it is in favour of a more light-hearted, enjoyable, positive indie pop sound, largely left alone to work its own wonders before Pettigrew contributes again. It may lack the gravitas that similar efforts by Embrace or Coldplay - that of the album's long-playing, gradually constructed track - but it does tick the boxes of a pleasant track steadily increasing in structure with all components complimenting one another. It won't change the world but equally it wouldn't be out of place in a soundtrack; a very pleasant track and probably one of the slow-growing favourites of the album.
A more morose start than most tracks here to close; "I don't believe in you..." as an opening line leaves little reason to question the overall tone of the track. Another slow burner, with mournful and introspective lyrics, the track does build into a well structured core. It inspires yet more comparisons to Embrace but they are basically amongst the leaders of the pack as far as this style of music is concerned so the prevalence of that band in my comparisons is no insult, although it does indicate the lack of range in this album. Builds to a well-executed, extended conclusion to the whole album.
I'm pleased to own this album and whilst I do have reservations about how it would translate to the live arena due to the high levels of production, I would not have any hesitation in finding out if I had the chance. Yes they're like Embrace and yes the just flirt with the idea of branching out and experimenting but you do feel that the potential, the core strength and group effort of the band, would be easily a strong enough foundation for them to branch out into new sounds if they ever decide to try. In all, this is one you could play when you have company, if your friends and family come over for a summer afternoon, for a date - yet when you listen to it on your own you can see facets in it as a music fan that give you hope that, if album number two comes along, you might find even more to enjoy.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Stay The Night
2 Musical Chairs
3 World Is Outside
5 Mind Games
6 Something Hilarious
8 Over Analysis
9 Further And Further Away
10 Wrapped Up In Little Stars