Five years after their debut EP, I Will Keep Your Ghost’s return is conflicted, with glimmers of brilliance.
One of the first music reviews I ever published on this site was of It’s Natural by I Will Keep Your Ghost. I was very captivated by them then, and I’ve been anticipating their follow-up release for some time now. While the band has played some shows in the interim, they released only one single (“Sleep,” which appears in a re-recorded version here) and never provided any solid details for their next release. I began to worry about a band that, for a time, was my absolute favorite local act.
Early this year, the band began to tease a new release and eventually announced a date and dropped a new single. I was initially ecstatic, but my opinion towards the release has shifted in the months since as I’ve let the EP live with me for a little.
One thing is for certain: I Will Keep Your Ghost has changed. The lineup currently consists of lead singer/guitarist Bryan Bradley, backup vocalist Sarah Feinberg (also of Everett band Tellers), and programmer (i.e. everything else) Doug Evans. Tonally, the EP feels sleeker, airier, and larger than before. The vocals embrace soaring pop hooks, and the production style feels more indebted to 80s-tinged indie pop than gritty industrial electronics.
However, the primary defining quality of the I Will Keep Your Ghost sound remains: the interplay between purely electronic elements and reverb-laden guitar. This is the element of the EP that falls flattest for me. Paired with the smoother synth sounds, Bradley’s guitars seem to make the EP feel thin, tending to drown out the wonderful programming by Evans. Neither of the elements is bad on its own, but they don’t meld well on this go-around.
Thankfully, the band’s songwriting chops haven’t dulled, and there are a lot of great moments on this EP. For example, the redux of “Sleep” feels even dreamier and the closing breakdown is even more euphoric. It’s also one of the moments when the guitars and synths do play well together. The bassline on the second verse of “Gold Leaf” is a tasty little nugget of Evans’ prowess. Feinberg’s husky vocals complement the band’s sound very well. The EP’s closer and lead single “1964” boasts captivating synth textures and the best closing swell of the tracklist.
Overall, Options feels conflicted. This stage of the band’s development is a bit awkward. Maybe it’s due to the long wait between studio sessions, or maybe there isn’t a specific reason (or set of reasons) for the disjointedness. However, there are glimmers of brilliance on Options. Hopefully, I Will Keep Your Ghost won’t return to another extended hibernation, as they do continue to demonstrate massive potential and raw talent.