Spirited second outing from Gary Lightbody’s other band…
The second album from Gary Lightbody’s side project super-group – which sees him playing alongside such musical thoroughbreds as Peter Buck, Iain Archer, Jacknife Lee, Scott McCaughey, Troy Stewart and Belle & Sebastian’s Richard Colburn – picks up more or less where the first one ended. Written and recorded over an intense week in Portland, 2010’s The Place We Ran From was an alt.country classic. Featuring the same stable of musicians, The Ghost Of The Mountain was recorded over nine days last February/March in Lee’s studio in Topanga Canyon.
Conditions are a lot mellower in California than Oregon, and sunshine is definitely an influence. However, the outwardly laidback character of some of these songs is deceptive. There’s no small amount of anguished lust, jealousy and heartbreak haunting these seemingly happy harmonies.
With a line-up of this calibre, musicianship is never in question; it’s what you do with it. Where the last album was a collection of Americana-tinged songs and ballads, this one is slightly more modern sounding and also far more focussed lyrically.
There’s something of a concept behind the songs, which means the album is best listened to straight through. Lightbody has taken two characters from a song on the debut, and interwoven the their further misadventures into some of these twelve songs. The theme? Well, his pleading refrain of “Oh, I will love you better than him,” on ‘All Things All At Once’ should give you some kind of clue.
Lightbody has always been a poetic lyricist, effortlessly crafting memorably vivid images (“Let’s carve our names into the ocean”), but sometimes he’s most effective when he just sings it straight: “It’s alright, a love like ours is easily found… Is it fuck!” (‘Blood’). Despite its energetic chorus, he sings the verses of ‘Ravens And Wolves’ like a broken man. There aren’t many Snow Patrol soundalikes, but the epic ‘Punishment’ strays close.
Tired Pony’s debut featured contributions from Zooey Deschanel, M. Ward and Editors frontman Tom Smith. This time round Lightbody has roped in the talents of Bronagh Gallagher, Kim Topper and actress Minnie Driver who sings beautifully on the climactic ‘Your Way Is The Way Home’.
All told, this is a beautifully bleak affair. They might be called Tired Pony, but The Ghost Of The Mountain confirms that they definitely have more than one trick to show.
Key Track: ‘Ravens and Wolves’
Go here to read the review at hotpress.com.