Radical Face : Ghost

<a href="Reviews/Album_Reviews/Prosser_%3A_Prosser/"><img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/radicalface.jpg" alt=" " /></a> They say a house is usually a person’s biggest investment, but it’s about much more than dollars and cents: each house has a...
7.8 Morr

 They say a house is usually a person’s biggest investment, but it’s about much more than dollars and cents: each house has a story of everyone who’s ever lived there, from why the place was built to why it was torn down.  Radical Face, a.k.a. Ben Cooper, explores this idea with his debut solo record, Ghost.   Recorded almost entirely on his own, in a small shed in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Cooper constructs a history of a house from all sorts of angles, from those living there, those returning there, or those haunting there, all with a sound that is intimate, whether stripped-down, or built-up.

One-half of Morr Music’s Electric President, Ben Cooper has a voice very reminiscent of Dean Wareham (Dean & Britta, Luna, Galaxie 500): conversational, low-key, but also bearing one’s soul.  Radical Face is a step away from the indietronica of Electric President and Morr Music, but is not without its own sonic flourishes.  A simple acoustic guitar and piano can build into an orchestra without losing its way.  Songs are often began with background sounds that set the tone, such as that of riding the rails on the lead-off track, “Asleep On A Train”, kids at play for “Let The River In”, or all sorts of creaking to open “Along The Road”.  The effects are particularly powerful when listened to on headphones: the children’s voices at the start of “River” sound like they’re coming from right outside your window, or on the other side of your white picket fence.

The keys, accordion, and train sounds of “Asleep” are a nice mood-setter for what is to come.  That is the forceful, effective, driving, and haunting “Welcome Home”, which works in both its quiet parts, and in its loud, orchestral ones, never abandoning its intimacy.  The following “River” might drift a little too much (literally: it includes lyrics, “You’re drifting away”), but nicely combines the hopes and sadness that adults feel, when they look upon those whose lives are just beginning.  “The Strangest Things” is definitely strange, with the birds in the background perhaps the most normal thing, but its switches between a choral anthem and small keys really work.

Middle track “Wrapped in Piano Strings” is possibly the strongest, as it is Death Cab For Cutie-like in its ability to be personal and familiar, while still fun.  Ben Cooper’s voice perfectly matches its great tempo.  “Winter Is Coming” is charging and driving, and yet still intimate and melodic.  The following “Sleepwalking” is slow, quiet, and melancholy, but delivered in an understated, matter-of-fact way, and finisher “Homesick” matches “Asleep” as a nice coda to the release.

There are a few places that could use remodeling on Ghost.  The likely single, “Glory”, takes too long to build, and feels rather cloying.  It isn’t really memorable, but it wants to be.  And “Haunted” is more of a comment on being haunted than actually being haunting.  The song is kind of too obvious, and Ben Cooper’s backing vocals (he was his own back-up singer on the record) are too prominent.  But they say every house isn’t perfect if it doesn’t have a few things that need to be changed…

Electric President is to begin work on their next album in 2008, but in his time away from co-President Alex Kane, Ben Cooper has crafted a record that actually surpasses last year’s Electric President.  A rare concept album that doesn’t feel forced, Ghost works both as a whole, and as a collection of songs.  If you listen to this away from home, you’ll want to go back.  And if you listen to this at home, you’ll start wondering who was there before you – and who will be there after you’re gone…

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