ALBUM REVIEW: A Fire burns brightly in ‘Ghost House’

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First Posted: 2/11/2014

A Fire With Friends’ “Ghost House” was recorded in fits and starts in a few different locations, but it doesn’t sound like it – it’s the seven-piece Scranton band’s most layered and cohesive album yet, and it’s just as intriguing and moody as its title and corresponding black and white album cover.

The band paints with many colors, however, offering all the atmosphere of shoegaze without putting the listener to sleep – just as opening track “The Astronaut Killed Himself” quietly lulls with starkly contrasting lyrics, “Awful Things” pushes a driving tempo that eventually breaks down into headbanging riffing, all while maintaining an eerie mystery to its lyrics, inspired by the strange Greek film “Dogtooth.”

“Elizabeth” is a beautiful tune describing long goodbyes and “Sweet, blissful daydreams / Of Sam Cooke singing us both to sleep / Of swing sets through sunsets on a summer’s eve / Of listening to every word you speak,” offering gentle romanticism amongst the beauty of nature and its reflective metaphors in “White Bike” and “Autumn Drive.” Both seem to jog memories of youth in simpler times.

Throwing expectations aside, the title track introduces a danceable, piano-driven instrumental break that waits just before the end to introduce the synth-made screams of children through the dark words that give creepy context to the preceding journey.

With a light acoustic introduction, “Jesus and I” is a scathing indictment of a seemingly cruel and indifferent savior wrapped so lightly in song that it’s almost somber and never heavy-handed, and closing tune “One Day I Will Tell You Everything” returns to the gentle strength of its opener but ends things simply with soft backing vocals as singer/guitarist Daniel Rosler declares that he’s “only as young as I’m allowed to be,” making the audience cling just as hard to the youthful energy and experimentation this record offers.

A Fire With Friends have taken their exceptional sound to another level on their third EP, combining lyrical and instrumental complexity that defies its initial impression of accessible simplicity. This will be a band to watch – and listen closer to – in 2014.

A Fire With Friends ‘Ghost House’ Rating: W W W W W