Review Summary: Long-time indie rockers do their own thing, channel Neil Young, make beautiful music.
Ghost Notes is the kind of record that most bands long ago forsook in favor of a quick, platinum single and a whole lot of filler. Musically and lyrically talented, with a meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship, Everest’s debut is one that requires multiple listens to uncover each subtle layer. The fact that they have been signed by Neil Young’s Vapor Records should tell you a whole lot about the band’s style; they are interested in telling a story, not to mention making some of the best country-tinged rock ‘n roll this side of My Morning Jacket.
Easily the most musically affecting song, “Rebels In The Roses” opens the album with a gentle acoustic strum accompanied by a forlorn electric guitar lick before singer Russell Pollard’s roughened voice pleads “if you find me / I’ll be yours in a heartbeat.” The song rumbles along on a slow-burning guitar melody that supports Pollard’s versatile voice instead of overwhelming it. A mix of modern and past, the song evokes a sense of nostalgia and sounds like a classic rock masterpiece while at the same time feeling like a breath of fresh air. And the guitar solo is epic, crunching, and perfectly placed.
The starting four songs is one of the best opening sequences of any record I’ve heard in recent memory, with “Rebels in the Roses” leading into the galloping “Trees” and following with the catchy, Elliott-Smith-via-Nashville “Into Your Soft Heart.” And the clear single material “Reloader” that ends the streak is the most accessible tune, a fast-paced distorted guitar anthem that will leave its chorus stuck in your head for days.
“Only In Your Mind” slows back the tempo a bit, but its stately beat and tasteful guitar keep the song from dragging. Everest’s influences are obvious, but their distinctions are what make Ghost Notes a strong, viable album in its own right. The guitars recall the American countryside and the epic rock tradition associated with southern rock without degenerating into the mindless solos and jams associated with that genre, while Pollard’s lyrics reflect the music appropriately without becoming too obtuse or archaic like similar bands (*Midlake cough*). And his singing is the kind that doesn’t oppress or disappear under waves of sound, instead directing the ebb and flow of each song with sureness.
Much like the individual songs, Ghost Notes rolls along like an album should, through dips and crests that prevent the album from running together and giving each part a distinct identity. While slightly top-heavy, the record’s second half can still stand on its own, particularly the lilting piano ballad “Angry Storm” and their one indulgent seven-minute piece, “I See It In Your Eyes,” a song that could teach My Morning Jacket a thing or two about development and restraint.
A spectacular debut album, to say the least, Ghost Notes is a record that immediately positions itself in the forefront of the Americana-rock tradition that has become a major part of the indie-rock scene over the years. Innovative, expertly crafted and produced, and mindful of its influences without becoming a clone, Everest’s style should take them a long way if they get the attention they deserve.