This is less of a review, and more of a promotion of an idea that I approve of immensely. I haven’t been running this site for very long, but during the time that it has been active I’ve had emails and tweets from artists who, nine times out of ten just want their music to be heard. A Lonely Ghost Burning basically provides a platform solely for that purpose, giving exposure to artists who deserve it in the form of compilation downloads featuring ‘smaller’ artists, which you can download for free or pay for if you’re that way inclined. It’s a concept that you can’t really fault, and I think it’s great to see a case where the music comes first, and where sharing music and giving artists exposure is the main priority. In my eyes that’s pretty damn commendable. If that’s enough to perk your interest you can find the site here. Any other relevant links can be found at the bottom of the post.
There are currently three compilations available from A Lonely Ghost Burning, the first two in the Alt / Punk series, and the first Beautiful Songwriting compilation, with the second set to follow in a month or two. Both deliver exactly what they claim to and then some, offering 11-15 tracks of a high quality from artists that tend to sit below the radar, with an aim to give them an audience. The first release in the Alt / Punk series features a few more familiar names, most noticeably in Tiny Engines artists Save Ends and Little Big League, two bands responsible for two of my favourite records of 2013. Amongst other artists that maybe aren’t as well know there’s Colour Me Wednesday with their brilliant and charming Shut, sounding slightly like a Kate Nash fronted indie-punk band, whilst there’s charged and dynamic pop-punk from Zero The Hero, whose vocalist is distinctive in the genre’s best way on the contagious Her Brother Knows Karate. Mixtape Saints’ Sleep was probably my favourite track on the first compilation, but each of the fifteen tracks featured was memorable in their own distinct way, most notably Look Into My Eyes by Tiger Bell, which paired great vocals with quirky punk rock instrumentals. I preferred this compilation to its follow-up, but did so by a thin margin. The standard is very high on both releases, and knowing hardly any of the artists going in myself I came out looking to hear more from each of them.
In regards to Alt/Punk Vol.2 you get much of the same, with no filler and a healthy amount of killer tracks throughout. If you’re a fan of angry and melodic post-hardcore then My Sleepless Youth are right up your alley, whilst those who prefer a fuzzier punk sound will love Sundae Skool by Boys, on which the female vocals sit well over a trademark garage punk style. So Wrong by Bad Ideas reminded me greatly of Evening out with Your Girlfriend by Fall Out Boy for all the right reasons, and following track Resilience by Kissing Booth perfectly juggles male and female vocals over a hazy and melodic backdrop. I featured Growing Up A Ghost briefly the other week, so it’s cool to see them promoted alongside other brilliant lesser known artists, and their short track Know Better is another great addition. Final track Shakey Ground by American Haiku begins with shades of Waxahatchee before exploding into churning instrumentals full of emotion, only to drop off again and then bounce back twice as spirited. There’s an emo feel to a lot of the tracks featured, including this one, which sits very well with myself, but there’s a good amount of variety as well. What I should really be getting at by this point is that both compilations are great, and each has plenty worth discovering and enjoying from a range of genres covered by the broad ‘alternative’ label that iTunes seems to throw at anything that doesn’t make the charts.
If you’ve found this post after reading a review on this site then there’s a good chance you’ll find a great deal to listen to on either of these alternative compilations, with each catering to a genre similar to a lot of the releases covered on this site. Moreover, if you enjoy finding new music as much as I do then you’ll be just as satisfied. Although not as directly relevant to my content the Beautiful Songwriting compilation is well worth a look as well, especially if you’re a fan of slow, haunting, mostly-acoustic tracks that rely mainly on a great voice above all else. Normally I’d consider ‘beautiful’ in a compilation title a possible over exaggeration, but it’s wholly fitting in this case, accurately describing the tracks featured. My choice picks from this release would be the brilliant opener courtesy of the talented Isobel Anderson, which I only wish ended on a more positive note. Also worth a mention are the Gabrielle Aplin-esque vocals of New Born’s Worst Enemy and the more energetic Just To Stay by David Ronnegard which is very, very good, mixing Foy Vance, Ben Howard and David Ford into an enticing folk blend. Gar Clemens plays a similar sort of song in St. Anthony’s Pawn Shop without the full-band appeal, and this track also plays all the right notes. The gorgeous Long Shadow by Aphir is another highlight, making for a striking and immersive piece of music that drifts delicately from start to finish. Each track on this compilation has heart above all else, and that’s often the only ingredient needed to put together a moving, more stripped back song regardless of how the artist chooses to move a listener. Anything else is just a bonus, and considering the compilation is already a bonus or sorts there’s no real room for complaint or criticism.
(6/6/2014) Beautiful Songwriting Vol.2 dropped a few weeks ago and it features eleven artists that again, I was unfamiliar with but am now better off for knowing. And again, it’s pretty good, as I expected it to be. It’s very similar to the first of the series, both in content and quality. You Are A Metaphor by The Capsules kicks things off, although ‘kicks things off’ perhaps suggests the track is more dynamic than it actually is. It’s a sweeping slow burner with delicate female vocals over a relaxed, cruising backdrop, drifting. My favourite track from this offering was Tally Marks by the simply named Joseph, a group of sisters hailing from Oregon, fitting with A Lonely Ghost Burning’s ability to promote artists the world over. Tally Marks is sublime, a basic enough acoustic track with layered exquisite vocals which really compliment the songs stripped backed nature, crooning yet powerful at times, emotional and well expressed. I’ve a tendency to favour female vocals on acoustic tracks, as is my preference, but the track from Seth Paul Machhi, Bitter Root was great, textured and with depth, again drawing comparisons to David Ford, who always comes to the front of my mind when discussing male singer / songwriters, as is my preference. Arctic Tern’s The Break & The Fall is one of the rockier numbers in a sense, making use of a full band during an explicit and effecting track, stunning when it drops off to pianos and drums during a haunting final minute. As with the first compilation the title says it all; these songs are beautifully written, composed and delivered, and although it features a few weaker songs it’s still a solid collection, well worth the wait. As with the other releases links are included below.
(11/09/2014) The latest in the Alt/Punk series of compilations was released lately, and features fifteen songs which are again, well worth a listen. Like the first two releases in the series there’s a lot of names I didn’t recognise (Brightside, MerylStreep and Wolves&Wolves&Wolves&Wolves were the only artists I’d listened to before), meaning I had a fair amount to benefit from giving the compilation a listen. What I did notice with Alt/Punk Vol.3 is how good the songs featured were; there’s no suggestion that the quality is dropping with each release, and the likes of the mathy I Can’t Help You, Sorry by Good News and noise-rock highlight London by The Brats particularly stood out, with the intricacy of the former and the energy of the latter making a mark. Brightside’s Now And Loud is a record I’ve been listening to a lot recently after finding it whilst browsing through Broken World Media’s Bandcamp page, and Circa 2006 is delightfully catchy here, as is a great deal of that release, which you can download as ‘name your price’ here. The song falls early on Alt/Punk Vol.3, and it lingers in the memory until the end, difficult to shake. I was also a fan of Creeper’s Gloom which kicks off the compilation, as well as the echoing Sad Black Banners by Southern Radio, which falls towards its end. Like the rest of the project’s releases, you can stream and download Alt/Punk Vol.3 below.
(18/12/2014) I’m a week or so late on this one, but Beautiful Songwriting Vol.3 dropped recently, and as I always try to I wanted to write a little bit about it. As is often the case with ALGB releases I was unfamiliar with almost all of the artists featured (that’s sort of the point), and as is also often the case I found plenty of songs which I enjoyed. I was particularly pleased to see Flower Face open the compilation, having downloaded her debut album Homesick around a month ago. Funeral Kid, which features here, is incredibly sparse, echoing vocals perched delicately atop a plucked acoustic guitar pictured played in a dark room by a sixteen year old (yes, sixteen) with a real penchant for creating a mood. It’s very affecting, and Homesick is definitely a release I’d recommend, strikingly somber and sincere, as well as brilliant lyrically. Flower Face is definitely an artist well worth watching, seriously talented, and you can pick up her discography as ‘name your price’ downloads here. Elsewhere there are notable selections from Maddy Sleigh, who contributes the heartfelt Lost, and Richard Allen, who delivers some excellent vocals over another acoustic track in You & I. Once again, consider me impressed with the tracks on offer, and the compilation as a whole, which continues to meet the project’s goal of promoting artists who aren’t as well known, but deserve to be – each of the tracks featuring has been self-released by the artists and it’s great to see them getting some support. You can stream and download the compilation below; personally I think it’s the best in the Beautiful Songwriting series so far. Great job Jamie, as per usual.
(17/02/2015) And now for something completely different – well, almost. Branching out from the trademark back and forth of the Alt / Punk and Beautiful Songwriting compilations Oneiric Escapism Vol.1 brings a new slant to the project, highlighting artists whose music seeks to transport a listener. As is often the case with these compilations the title definitely fits; the songs this time round are often sparse and ethereal in nature, carrying a distinct and frequently sublime calm. It’s certainly the case with Aphir’s (previously featured by the project) haunting opener Delta and it’s a trend which continues with the likes of Your Ghostly Letter: Autumn by Your Schizophrenia, which offers foreign spoken word atop sombre keys. Sure, I had no idea what was being said, but I found myself drifting off regardless. The majority of tracks here are low-key, dreamy soundscapes and piercing, affecting vocals, but the compilation has its ‘fuller’ moments, most noticeably with Seasurfer’s Cloudjumping, my favourite track following Golden Fable’s gorgeous Avalanche. The former surges with the energy its title suggests, capturing whatever kind of sensation cloudjumping might actually generate, and it stands out between Shisd’s experimental, James Blake-like What I Mean and the gliding Elements by Visitor. On each of the aforementioned tracks there’s a good amount to lose yourself in, and they encourage it, often possessing surreal and isolating qualities, less so in the second half, which fills things out slightly. I listened to the compilation through my best set of headphones whilst doing some work for Uni and actually ended up getting a productive writing session done, which I’m pretty sure the compilation had something to do with. Considering I’m currently begrudgingly studying Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway I’d say that’s high praise. As a whole Oneiric Escapism Vol.1 is an interesting and absorbing collection of songs, delivering on its promising title with fourteen tracks more than capable of cocooning and moving a listener. It’s the same kind of escape I find when I listen to This Will Destroy You, or Cliff Martinez’ Drive soundtrack, and the compilation is just as well selected as the latter, at times quite similar to one of my favourite film scores. Terminus’ We Don’t Know reminded me greatly of Kavinsky’s Nightcall, stylish with substance, and when Zane Lowe was rescoring the movie a few months back he could have just as easily turned to the artists featured here instead of the likes of Bring Me The Horizon and The 1975. Granted, there are a few songs which I didn’t find as effective (Ivory Towers, Ryoma Sakoh) but overall I’m impressed yet again, not that I expected anything else, and I’d recommend exploring this new direction and meandering along the way – you can find the release below. Anyway, here’s to more of the same.
(27/04/2015) At the time of writing, the latest ALGB release, Alt-Melodies Vol.4 marks a name change, and in doing so hopes to better represent the spectrum of styles featured, straying from the perhaps previously restrictive Alt / Punk title. It seems a fitting change given the nature of the eleven songs that make up the compilation, with previous compilations not always roaming within the borders established by the name. This time round you’re presented with a similar set of songs as those which featured in the series earlier releases, but things rarely feel like they’re straying into ‘been there, done that’ territory, and once again I was met with artists which (mostly) didn’t ring a bell, and have since merited some exploration into their subsequent discographies. This time around I was particularly happy to see Father Mountain feature, namely because I named their debut EP On Leaving & Being Left Behind as my second favourite of 2014. Bones, which was taken from that EP, is a highlight amongst the compilations other highlights, a reflective, inspired piece of music which sounds weighted thematically but leaves a listener buoyant at its close, flowing with a breezy indie grace, clean piercing guitars supplementing a delicate and calming backdrop fractured with some inspiring emotional moments. It’s a track I’m a fan of, and it’s nice to know that I’m not the only Brit who feels that way. On Leaving… is an EP which still manages to impact me several months after stumbling upon it via Bandcamp, and it’s a release I’d highly recommend – hopefully Alt-Melodies Vol.4 steers a few more people its way. With the compilation there seems to be an emphasis this time around on echoing female vocals and relaxing soundscapes, and both feature during the dainty charm of Vanity’s Amanda, and on the paced sparkle of Blonder’s Nicole. These tracks fall at each end of the compilation respectively, and I picked up the eponymous debut full-length of the former after hearing the song. Since doing so it’s been a companion on sunny English days, the sort of record which benefits from that kind of climate, and it reminded me somewhat of Little Big League’s Lindsey, a song which featured on the first Alt / Punk compilation some eighteen months ago. The track preceding it, and opener, Leggy’s July is a contrast, fuzz-soaked garage pop which is catchy if not slightly unnerving. It’s an interesting opener, especially compared to some of the more indie-centric selections, but I liked it, as I did with Whitebridge’s Willow, which follows three tracks later. Both are confident, and the fourth track is a slice of punk-rock, taken from a two-track PWYW release, the first I’ve to hear from the band and hopefully not the last. In the second half of the compilation Great Grandpa’s jittering Cheeto Lust is a personal favourite, with vocalist Alex Menne reminding me of Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, sounding effortlessly cool and carefree to match the track. Dunes’ 1975 offers slightly more crunch amongst the calm, as does Willow, and the song gets a 10/10 purely for what could be a reference to Tommy Wiseau’s infamous movie The Room. Intentional or not, it’s pretty great regardless, and I’d be lying if I said the line ‘Oh Lisa, you’re tearing me apart´ wasn’t my favourite on the compilation, spiralling into drawn out, wailing vocals and rolling instrumentals. Alt-Melodies Vol.4 is the eighth A Lonely Ghost Burning release that I’ve written about, and it’s the eighth that’s proved to be a rewarding use of my frequently wasted time. As always there’s a good amount deserving of further listening, and given that the point of the compilation is to encourage exploration and promote artists often not on the radar Alt-Melodies Vol.4 is another success on an ever-growing list of ALGB successes. Check it out below, along with the other releases from the project; there are far worse ways to spend half an hour. For example, you could watch the first half hour of The Room.
(09/08/2015) At the time of writing what is at present, my latest update of many updates on this post I have a job which starts at 4AM, across the relatively small town in which I’m studying at University. It’s a quiet place at its busiest, Chichester, but in the early hours of the morning, before normal people wake up, it’s a ghost town of the most ghostly sort. I rarely see anyone in the twenty-five minutes it takes me to cross town, and I’m more likely to cross paths with a fox than a fellow twilight journeyman. This actually kind of suits me, at least when it comes to posts like this one, because with certain releases, most as I’ve come to find, a certain environmental ambience adds a lot to what otherwise may be a standard experience. Listening to Machine Head while walking to work has never really felt right, maybe because I’m still half asleep, and I tend to opt for something soft, quaint, which seems to complement and bring life to the constant stillness around me. Beautiful Songwriting Vol.4 is a compilation ideally suited for the early morning commuter, the late night truck-drivers, who don’t just want a distraction in their music – something to lull but merit staying awake for – but something that adds a spark of magic to mundane proceedings. I liked that I could still hear the sound of my footsteps echoing down the empty streets during Molly Pinto Madigan’s striking On The Hunt; I liked that the birds where still chirping whilst All The King’s Daughters bewitched their way through One Stitch At A Time, and I liked the compilation as a whole, and will likely revisit it often whilst I walk to work – and maybe when I find myself in a similar state of unavoidable isolation. I’ve done the same with the three releases in this series arc thus far, and Beautiful Songwriting Vol.4 matches them because it doesn’t do a whole lot differently, and nor should it have any reason to. Things are still singer-songwriter oriented, with mostly female vocals floating over a gentle background, as is the case with Jillian Kay’s Dead Flowers, which is haunting and compelling in its low-fi, faded approach. It adds to a soothing release befitting its name, and Beautiful Songwriting Vol.4 flows in a way some of the earlier Beautiful Songwriting releases didn’t quite manage. It could be down to the prominence of female vocalists throughout, with the release feeling more streamlined – something which admittedly isn’t necessary of a compilation album. Fans of the likes of Lucy Rose, Jessica Pratt and Laura Marling will find several artists worth exploring further, and even those who prefer something heavier might still find some incentive to take a wander before the sun comes up. Blackbird Peregrine’s layered Carry The Torch is a highlight for myself, as is Tanner Swift’s The Wait, which ends the compilation with the only song, aside from Chris Hartt’s painfully endearing What’s Left To Go, to feature male vocals. The latter employs a back and forth method to express two viewpoints reflecting on a relationship, exploring a narrative which sets it apart, and it’s a strong track as well – as are most, if not all. Be it indoors or outdoors, night or day, Beautiful Songwriting Vol.4 is rewarding on several levels, and like its earlier siblings I found it to be immensely charming throughout, making it well worth a listen. You can find it below.
(16/10/2015) In my last update to this ever-expanding and consistently complimenting post about A Lonely Ghost Burning I spoke about my job – the walk there every morning at least, anyway. This time round I’m going to end up talking about it again, because I think it’s still relevant in some sort of way. I work a lot, be it mundane repetitive work for Sainsbury’s or stimulating University work, and I tend to keep busy outside of both commitments. What I like about my job, and what I like about my solitudinous study sessions, is that I get to listen to music – and that it helps in both instances. Whether I’m picking products off shelves, or picking quotes from textbooks I have at least one earphone in, and lately that earphone’s been delivering me the soothing sounds of Oneiric Escapism Vol.2, which is, at the time of writing, the latest in the projects growing catalogue.
When I’m studying there’s often a particular stylistic direction that I opt for musically, and it’s normally something quaint; something soft; something that isn’t going to distract or disturb; something restful to help me focus, something fitting of revision. Oneiric Escapism Vol.2, like its predecessor ticks all of the above; it’s a relaxed ride at 10mph, along dark evening roads under starlit skies. It’s the gently pulsating sound of space with something to say, adult lullabies with depth and a darker edge. It’s blissful whilst belatedly bold in terms of atmosphere, dripping in delicate style, never growing too loud or sonically distilled. Like Oneiric EscapismVol.1 it’s befitting of its title, a daydream dipped in dark matter, made for quiet library corners or twilight walks home, for flitting between the night and the day or between the pages of the Bukowski biography I’m reading for my dissertation. Like Bukowski (although his is often understated) there’s a grace, a hum of life which lends a glow to proceedings, keeping things pleasant (Rheya’s Franchise) instead of mournfully melancholic and bleak. There’s a striking, sparked, beauty to proceedings, and even when songs seem sparse they’re normally holding something more, embers happy to see the flames dwindle. atOlla’s Arctic Gazing is cool and collected – a drifting, ambient slice of tired, neon vocals and sparkling pockets of synth. It’s an early highlight, as is Kendra Lee Miller’s Aurora, which plays out like a Carson McCullers novel – lovelorn, lonely, isolated, but gripping and charming nonetheless.
My housemate, who also shares that 4AM walk with me, is a keen fan of Lana Del Rey, and I decided to show him CENO’s Blinds Blame The Cold, which holds the seductive qualities of Grant’s music, sucking you in and leaving you pining. Needless to say he liked it, and I liked it as well, moreso than any other track; maybe because of the artist it reminded me of, but also because there’s some magic to it, with the song carrying a vibrant, vivid sheen without showing it off, a shy peacock. Elsewhere New Shack’s The Minotaur is captivating, balancing mousy vocals against a laidback, flickering retro backdrop, sweet in a different way to Blinds and almost as good. Amber Maya’s experimental Visitor was another track I liked and, as was the case with a few of the songs here, it reminded me of James Blake, delivering those same dulcet, ethereal tones that work so well with progressive, liquid instrumentals which are layered but almost minimally so. Rheya’s Franchise isn’t one of those Blake styled tracks, instead delightfully nostalgic with its choice of beats, almost harking back a few decades and giving it modern gloss. It works, as does Aela Kae’s Told Me That, which is spellbinding in its stripped back approach, opaque and absorbing as it reclines and ribbons.
There’s a distinct lack of the louder tracks this time around, the full-bodied rushes delivered by Seasurfer’s Cloudjumping (which featured on Vol.1) are absent, but I quite liked that – it makes the compilation immensely streamlined, meaning there’s nothing to pull you out of the trance. With the second entry, the series seems to have decided on a set tone whereas the first didn’t have that consistency, and as a result the songs here flow like water, from the opening electrifying pulse of Aurora to the closing, drowsy throb of Ocean. This is a collection which knows exactly how it wants to sound, and if you happen to like that sound then you’ve struck gold with the twelve selections on offer. I’m listening to Oneiric Escapism Vol.2 whilst writing this, and with it I’ve managed to write more than I’d planned to, but I can’t say I mind too much. The compilation has this isolating sort of quality, played loud enough it became the only thing there, aside from the keyboard and my laptop screen, and with it I feel in a bubble almost. As long as there isn’t a fire nearby I’m alright with that. It’s easy to space out with the songs here, and it’s also easy to see the darker vibe they sometimes benefit from. Things throughout are haunting yet intriguing (as is Gillian Ho’s artwork, which I also liked), but it’s uncanny nature is overshadowed by the shadows; that calm unknown which is somehow pleasingly familiar and calming in its claustrophobic, slightly unnerving nature. It’s the soundtrack to dark mornings, but there’s also songs there for the post-work walk home, the sighing sprawl onto the sofa as the dream-pop of Aiko Aiko’s Hunt leads into Maya’s Visitor.
I feel like I’m limiting the compilations ‘usefulness’ in a sense, restricting it to set scenarios or environments, and that’s unfair – it’s just that lately the library, work, and the pillows on my sofa are the only places I’ve frequented. Oneiric Escapism Vol.2 is suitable for anything you see fit, and it might compliment wherever / whatever that is pretty damn well. Some people revise to Meshuggah, some give My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a spin to set them at ease, and someone reading this should probably give the compilation a chance in whatever place it might fit. I’m certainly more than happy to stick with Oneiric Escapism Vol.2 for now as I go about day to day life, because even at its infrequent worst it’s an interesting listen, while at it’s frequent best it’s intoxicating to say the least.
(23/03/2016) It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write about a compilation from A Lonely Ghost Burning, but I’m glad to have the opportunity to do so again. This time I’m not even too far beyond the release date of said compilation, which in this case is Alt Melodies Vol.5, having dropped in mid-March. I took it to New Orleans with me during a week away from Uni, and gave it some time to settle as I wandered the city, and what I found was one of the projects most cohesive comps so far. Compilations are great, as is the likelihood of finding new artists through them, but listening to them can often prove a jarring experience when transitioning from one unknown artist to the next. Alt Melodies Vol.5 seems to have been painstakingly crafted in a way which makes this issue minimal, and it flows nicely from one song to the next, providing a more ‘full-album feel’ than other similar compilations. Sure, there’s no real need for this, seeing as the point of a comp is to promote single songs, but it’s a nice touch which is easy to appreciate when working your way through the ten tracks on offer.
That’s not to say that all ten of these tracks sound similar, they don’t, and it’s more of a testament to how well they all seem to fit into that ‘alt melody’ niche. Most tracks are easy-going (Romero by Kristoff Waltz) and comfortable as they progress, and the comp is an entertaining, pretty chilled listen as a result. Things begin fuzzy and friendly (Don’t Go by Pony), and towards the end of the comp songs grow louder and faster (Blackout Curtains by Acid Fast), allowing Alt Melodies Vol.5 to expand and unravel nicely. Quirky opener Nothing About You by Loop Line sets the tone well, breezy in nature while solid structurally, put together in a way that showcases a good amount of creativity, compressed into a spirited and easy to like track. Two songs later, Supermoon’s Powersuits is a different type of good mood soundtrack, cushioned inside a warm exterior, twinkling guitars and pleasantly languorous vocals which sounds distinctly retro while also quite fresh. The EP Powersuits is taken from, Comet Lovejoy, sounds like what your best guess might be in relation to its title, and it’s a release I’d definitely recommend, having checked it out. Like many of the EPs and LPs borrowed from it can be picked up as a pay-what-you-want download through Bandcamp, and you can explore each via A Lonely Ghost Burning’s website. You get ten tracks on the comp, but there’s the potential to easily acquire far more, many of them pretty good likewise. Alt Melodies Vol.5 only skims the surface of what’s available, and it’s all worth looking into. It helps also that if you’re a fan of one song that you may be a fan of them all, and there’s only really Hateflirt’s Lowest Lows which strays away from the compilations generalized tone. It’s a slow, creeping track which does liven up as it develops, throwing in a few interesting shifts sonically, complimented by a riff which carries a western, wasteland feel to it which wouldn’t go amiss in a Tarantino film. It’s an interesting listen, curious for the right reasons, despite affecting the aforementioned cohesion between songs. If you’re looking for something faster then Good Shade have you covered, their track Plastic Hell (taken from solid sophomore LP Breakfast) is raucous and unrelenting, that frantic brand of emotive rock and roll with a side of stoner punk. It’s a good time served up on a plate, much like actual breakfast, and it was probably my favourite track on the comp, although Burnt Palms’ 31 comes a close second – one of the more relatable tracks lyrically for a sad song enthusiast like me. It’s a speeding, sweet and sympathetic entry which closes off the comp, a likeable piece of escapism which charms as it passes.
The compilation also offers its listeners a few foreign language tracks, just to mix things up even further. Such a song would Dia Especial (Special Day) by Chilean band Planetario, which manages to be very catchy, even without making much sense to a listener restricted to the English language, especially during a solid chorus. Japanese four-piece Pens+ and their entry Daylight Daydream offers more of the same, another instance where it doesn’t matter what’s being said, as long as its memorable enough to make a mark – both songs certainly are. Walking through a place like New Orleans these selections only added to the multicultural feel the city presents, and they extend the scope of Alt Melodies Vol.5 likewise.
Looking back two and a half years to Alt / Punk Vol.1 it appears that Jamie Downes has got better at ‘carefully curating’ his compilations, and that’s without losing any of their eye/ear-opening appeal for a more streamlined experience. With Alt Melodies Vol.5 you get more than you’d perhaps expect from your typical alternative compilation, as if you weren’t getting a good amount already. I feel a little bit like I’m running out of good things to say about A Lonely Ghost Burning and the compilations released under the moniker, and I don’t have any negative to say in order to balance things out somewhat. Anyway, here’s to the next one.
(27/04/2016 or 04/27/2016) I like the springtime, and I like the springtime in Georgia better than I like the springtime in Lancashire. For me, Spring has always been that period in-between ‘too hot’ and ‘too cold,’ a transitional position between two somewhat unbearable poles. I like the spring because I can finish an ice cream before it melts, when it’s warm enough to actually enjoy ice cream outdoors. I like the springtime because of Easter eggs and the approaching culmination of the football season. I like the springtime because certain songs sound better accompanied by a cool breeze blowing across a green field and over clear waters. I like that I can go out for a bike ride without melting into a sweaty puddle by the sixth mile. I like that I can cycle alongside a river, feel the wind playing with my hair, and listen to some complimentary music while I do so. That’s what I did this weekend, when I grabbed my old and beaten up iPod Classic (remember those?), synced it, and rented out a bike for a few hours during a casual Sunday. I don’t know if you’ve ever cycled beside a river in spring, but I’ve always found it to be one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. The experience is better still with a compilation like Beautiful Songwriting Vol.5 to accompany it; although most things do tend to improve with a soundtrack to join the sensation.
I’ve been living in an American city for the last five months, and I haven’t gotten out of that city too many times during. By ‘getting out’ I mean escaping to the countryside, leaving the buildings behind, so any opportunity which allows me to escape for a little while is one I tend to cherish. I spent Sunday afternoon escaping, and I escaped with the latest compilation from A Lonely Ghost Burning. I escaped with sweet, sentimental folk songs, touching acoustic numbers and lyrically humbling hymns to solitude. I properly escaped. I left the city behind and let the songs propel me along the river, humming in my ears while my tyres hummed against the concrete. I forgot about everything that lay behind me, the paper I still needed to finish, the laundry I needed to do, the phone bill I had to pay, the crack in our kitchen ceiling. I needed to get away for a while, really get away, and music has always been the easiest way for me to do that, but actually getting away helps as well. I hit play on Beautiful Songwriting Vol.5 five minutes into my journey, after I’d covered myself in the necessary amount of suncream and found a way to balance my iPod in my shorts in a way which would prevent it falling out, while keeping the line on the headphones a reasonable length. I was immediately greeted by the lush, relaxing tones of Riley Pinkerton’s In His Image, a song which felt positively Victorian in delivery, but also positively perfect playing out alongside passing trees draped in Spanish moss, bowing to the subtle majesty of the song. Pinkerton kicks off a compilation which glows golden, splendid in the sun, and it’s one of the stronger songs in a fourty-minute string of strong songs.
Elsewhere, and later in my ride, Ira Wolf’s Alive made me genuinely feel alive, probably my favourite song to feature on an ALGB release since Isobel Anderson’s In My Garden, and I liked it for similar reasons. It just feels very real, very earnest, as do all of the songs here, subtle and simmering. None of the tracks are too loud or too soft (too hot or too cold), settling into a cushioned warmth which works well when paired with that cool breeze – take Halina Heron’s Guilty or SJ Kurtis’ Romantic Muse. It’s all very quaint, very nice, and for the most part I felt like I was playing out the opening credits to an indie film while following the river – I’m reminded of Juno for some reason. A Voice For Vultures’ Pigs On Parade would accompany the sad moment of realization during a film of that nature, frail and delicate, vulnerable in a way highly reminiscent of Keaton Henson, lonely lyrically and wanting spiritually. It’s a moving track, as is Perlo’s Pools which follows, which displays a great male / female duality which is very The Civil Wars, but also very good. It continues the folksy trend which the compilation establishes and adheres to throughout. That’s often been the case with the Beautiful Songwriting series in the past and it prevails further here – the songs authentic and rousing, flickering life in three minute bursts of pained clarity.
I reached the turning point in my journey just as I finished my second playthrough of the compilation. I hit play again and thought about cycling back to Columbus immediately, quickly deciding against it. Instead I settled myself under a tree by the river, and listened to the compilation one more time through, just to feel it when led there with my eyes closed. That’s how I like to work out if I like a record or not. I watched the boats come along the river and pass me by. I watched the leaves rustling in the tree above me as the light fought to push past them and burn my skin with an affectionate brush of warmth. I smiled at passersby and only carried on smiling when they said something in passing. I couldn’t hear them because of my headphones, but it didn’t matter so much what they were saying, what mattered was the music and the sunlight flitting through the turning wheels of their bikes, spinning shadows outwards. What mattered was the leaf falling south onto my leg, or the persistent blade of grass tickling my arm in the shade, as if trying to crawl out from under it. What mattered was me being there with some music – that’s when things tend to matter most to me. Beautiful Songwriting Vol.5 is a compilation that makes things matter, and I can praise it for that, as well as the quality of the songs which make it up. I’m a sentimental soul at heart, and the compilation is a sentimental selection of songs. Together we get on just fine, and we continued to do so during the ride back as well.
(21/12/2016) It’s ten days until days until the year ends, and I’m thinking about 2016. I’m thinking that I’m ending the year the same way I ended 2015, scraping by and stacking shelves in a supermarket to cover rent. I’m thinking that that’s alright. A great deal has happened in-between, and sometimes things don’t need to change drastically in order for progress to be made. It’s been fourteen months since I sat down to write about Oneiric Escapism Vol.2 and my thoughts about that compilation haven’t changed. A Lonely Ghost Burning, as a project, isn’t necessarily changing significantly either, but changes haven’t really been needed. Over the last year the developing project has settled comfortably into a compelling niche, sporadically offering excellent compilations within three strands. Oneiric Escapism Vol.3 is the third release in the shortest of the strands and, as its predecessor was fourteen months ago, it proves to be a breath of fresh air for somebody who doesn’t normally seek out music of this nature (myself). It’s a release which toes the line between reality and fantasy, experimental, innovative, and shining a spotlight on artists just below the radar. There’s twelve artists to discover and explore here, and explore I did, like an astronaut casting glances outwards into a brand new cosmos.
Oneiric Escapism Vol.2 is immersive immediately, the lush production of Todavia’s Stay making for an excellent opener as the song unfurls beautifully. It’s a track which, lyrically, falls heavy and harrowed, but there persists a sense of weightlessness throughout, gravity gradually loosening it’s hold. The ambience pervades a sense of transience as vocalist / guitarist / drummer Rhyan Riesgo repeats the line ‘You know I’ll be whatever you want me to be’ as the song dances towards its end. It’s as good as the compilation gets, but there’s plenty more to enjoy elsewhere, including the Blakian (James, not William) pulse of einarIndra’s Thoughts, which is a highlight. It’s space populated with flickering lights, the ebb and flow of synths like waves rolling upon a beach as the long-awaited sunrise sits stagnant on the horizon. It’s evening music blending into an early morning, melancholic and serene in scintillating quantity, and is followed by Desert Dollhouse’s Gaze – which is listed as a demo yet feels very close to a final product. At six and a half minutes it’s expansive and ethereal, silence bleeding into cosmic cracks during a twilight trek across a sparse soundscape slowly developing – haunting as it progresses. A much more optimistic track is contributed by Dæva shortly after, but Dream was too dreamy for my tastes, the summery instrumentals feeling almost excessively exuberant. It made for the only song on Oneiric Escapism Vol.3 which didn’t quite facilitate an ‘escape,’ but as the shortest song it also seemed to flit by, followed by LAANDS soundtrack to an eclipse – Wide Awake. The compilation later ends with potentially it’s most interesting track, ‘word soul’ selection Rooms, from South African artist SOLR. A bleak, nightmarish mesh of beats echo beneath vocals, which delve deep into a lonely darkness, chiming amidst the emptiness. I watched Arrival last week (Amy Adams movie), and it reminded me of the aliens within that film, drifting through pale clouds, not quite visible yet not quite invisible either, the use of thick bass accentuating their movements through the smog. Just like that film was, Rooms is a thought-piece, and it certainly succeeds as one.
As has been the trend with the last few ALGB releases, Oneiric Escapism Vol.3 is much more consistent sonically, lacking the more dynamic entries which altered the flow of earlier entries (see Cloudjumping as mentioned in my Vol.2 write-up).Dream breaks the spell, but only for a brief period, and after that the compilation drifts towards its conclusion, just as it was likely intended to, songs similar in substance flowing nicely into each other. There’s a clear focus here, and the objective has been met. Taken in one sitting, Vol.3 is mesmeric, and dissecting it in terms of its individual components reveals a number of artists well worth exploring further. One such artist would be I Am Alice, whose track Ashes repeatedly struck me as I ran through the songs on here. It’s a complex and absorbing selection, experimental with the way in which it blends fields samples, electronica, and folk vocals which would likely prove enthralling acapella – “caught me scattering the ashes of a dying star / he said I don’t care what you’ve done but tell me who you are.” On a compilation which seems to look upwards for inspiration, it’s fitting that it’s best picks are those which stretch towards the stratosphere. There’s several songs on here which seem determined to.
At the end of the day, good music is good music, and whether you pay for the content featured or not you’d be supporting a great concept and most likely unearthing some new artists in the process. Speaking from experience, a lot of musicians would settle solely for your time and the opportunity to offer something worth experiencing, so I recommend at least browsing through what A Lonely Ghost Burning has to offer, because chances are you’ll find something to reward doing so, and I imagine those featured would appreciate it. If you’d like to know more about each individual track and artist, everything you need can be found on the A Lonely Ghost Burning site, which can direct you elsewhere accordingly. Bandcamp links for each compilation can be found below, as well as a few other useful links. I’ve also left links for a few samplers I’ve found myself recently, which may also be of interest if free music is your thing – which it probably is.