A Lonely Ghost Burning‘s Alternative Melodies series of compilations seeks to promote the work of artists primarily from the genres of rock and indie, with the many sub-genres covered also. Each release boasts a selection of songs rife with heart and energy, dynamic and anthemic, from the finding-its-feet feel of the initial Alt / Punk moniker to the streamlined immersion of the later releases. Below you’ll find words about each release, composed at the time indicated before I was as familiar with the releases as I am now. You should also hopefully be able to note the way I’ve got better at writing about them. Find my thoughts on the other strands of the project here.
Alt / Punk Vol.1 and Vol.2 (30/3/2014)
The first release in the Alt / Punk series features may feature a couple of familiar names, most noticeably in Tiny Engines Records alumni Save Ends and Little Big League, two bands responsible for two of my favourite records of 2013. Amongst other artists (that perhaps 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. Elsewhere 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 notable due to its dinstinctions was 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 pretty high on both releases, and knowing hardly any of the artists going in to the release 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 exists an emo-tinged 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.
Alt / Punk Vol.3 (11/09/2014)
The latest in the Alt/Punk series of compilations features fifteen songs which are, again, well worth a listen. Like the first two releases in the series, there are 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. You can stream and download Alt/Punk Vol.3 below.
Alt Melodies Vol.4 (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 around 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. Once again I became familiarised with artists whose names (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 a compilation of highlights; it’s a reflective, inspired piece of music which sounds weighted thematically but leaves a listener buoyant at its close. It flows 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. Within 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 Varsity‘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 certainly far worse ways to spend half an hour. For example, you could watch the first half hour of The Room.
Alt Melodies Vol.5 (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 the university and gave it some time to settle as I wandered the city. 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 song. Two tracks 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 it’s memorable enough to make a mark – both songs certainly are. While 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 ALGB founder 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.
Alternative Melodies Vol.6 (30/07/2017)
It’s 2PM, and I’m in a hammock, somewhere in the Spanish countryside, fifty kilometers east of Santiago De Compostela and perhaps half that distance from cellular phone signal. I’m a little burnt out, and a little bit sunburnt, but aside from that, all is well. Cocooned, and swaying slowly from side to side while enjoying the sublime weather, life is easier than it has been for a while. I’m on holiday. I have my headphones, and I’m listening to Alternative Melodies Vol.6, the latest in a long line of releases courtesy of A Lonely Ghost Burning. If you’ve scrolled this far down the page and paused to read a portion of any of the preceding paragraphs, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s my fifth listen in three days, my free hours filled with blissful lazing and hastily created iPod playlists. Passing the afternoon in this hammock is how I’m spending my siesta; I’m not very good at sleeping during the day. As it always has and always will, music occupies the silence, the songs on Alternative Melodies Vol.6 fitting with the laid back nature of my early afternoon.
From the offset the release is one which is consistently calming and charming, characterised by breezy guitar melodies and sunny weather hooks. It’s an easy, easily likable listen, from Subsonic Eye‘s Cosmic Alignment (which may be the best song to feature on an ALGB comp to date) to the infectious grit of Brunch Club‘s Bed Bugs. The songs here aren’t necessarily as loud, nor are they as quiet as past Alt-Melodies releases, instead settling into a comfortable in-between. In doing so, the compilation, in terms of collective dynamic, perhaps aligns with the suitable-for-everybody ethos of record labels such as Tiny Engines; Brunch Club in particular sound a band well suited to the Midwest label, drawing comparisons to label alumni Cayetana. Alternative Melodies Vol.6 is definitely “alternative,” but it’s more grounded in terms of the genre it represents. The energy here is channeled with low-key cathartic intricacy instead of with brash punk dynamism, and the benefits of a picking from a narrower field are plenty.
As such, the compilation ticks along nicely at a steady pace from the beginning, Cosmic Alignment placing somewhere on the peripherals of the space-age shoegaze spectrum, Subsonic Eye an ocean of hazy harmony. It’s subtly evocative and unexpectedly expensive, as is second selection Hard To Forget by Norwegian/British three-piece You Could Be A Cop, which is wistful in a way often associated with the emo genre – playfully nostalgic and lyrically poetic. The direction taken on these opening two tracks is one aiming for enchantment, and this quality seems at the core of Alternative Melodies Vol.6. Be it on Beachglass‘ exquisite Lay Low or Terry Vs Tori‘s lyrically-potent High Tide there exists a noted attempt to pull a listener in, perhaps an off-branch of the Oneiric Escapism ethos. For the most part, the compilation is a current of coalescing daydream aesthetics, and lying in my hammock I find myself drifting in more than one way, closing my eyes during Lillet Blanc‘s Foul Play and letting the track unfold in the blackness beneath my eyelids. When the flies settle on my folded arms, as they tend to do, I find that I don’t particularly mind. The soft tones of vocalist Emily Rawlings rest perfectly atop sea-clear guitars, iridescent like the heat wave shimmer cast upon the Spanish roads the day before. Likewise, the mellow instrumental progression of DSPS‘s 我會不會又睡到下午了 (Sleep till Afternoon) is gorgeous, while Mint‘s Cold Wave is every bit as refreshing as its title suggests. In the warm afternoon heat, Alternative Melodies Vol.6 is frequent bliss. On the plane home, five days from now, it’s set to lessen the blues found in departure.
This is a compilation enjoyed almost as well as a whole body as it is in its individual parts, a quality which has quickly become an ALGB staple. Compilation curator Jamie Downes has certainly improved when it comes to picking artists and creating a cohesive, streamlined experience using their music. The bands featuring on Alternative Melodies Vol.6 certainly benefit from the company they keep therein, certain songs complementing each other (as tracks one and two do). It makes for a listening experience which feels oddly efficient, and is, therefore, all the more effective, engaging, and encouraging when it comes to further exploration. Further exploration, of course, is always recommended, and you can read more about each artist/record here. The full compilation can be streamed below, along with several other excellent entries into a collection which is only growing ever richer in terms of depth, quality, and consistency.