Review Summary: "Still, Here" isn't begging to be your next obsession, but rather is meekly waiting for you to give it a moment to shine, and is internally overjoyed at the fun you'll have with it.
Here I am, a music critic that has found an album that I consider fantastic. I emerge from a few weeks of little to no interaction with the technologies that surround me on a daily basis to present to you an increasingly vital question: Why do you spend your time browsing music discussion sites? Is it an across-the-board interest, kindled by long nights of club-hopping, music-composing, long drives, maybe at least one of the aforementioned traits of your life, or is it an insatiable addiction? Let's say that it's the latter for you; have you found yourself satisfied with what you've been listening to lately? Oftentimes we find ourselves displeased with new albums that seem like ones we would enjoy, almost as if we're expecting something monumental and only receiving something run-of-the-mill at best. Our expectations can kill us at times, but the longing for something that will truly speak to us, to capture the essence of our being and articulate it verbatim through a musical context, is something ethereal when actually realized. On the other side of the coin, when an album unexpectedly leaps out at us and captures our heart's attention there seems to be nothing more memorable in the long run; it seems as if the music itself sought us out after an extensive search for its most promising potential bearer.
From both perspectives I have stumbled upon albums that have changed my life, but I do confess that it is always quite the pleasant surprise to seemingly accidentally find an album that I almost feel I was meant to hear. Iowan post-rock group Followed by Ghosts released their debut titled "Still, Here" in November, and perhaps Skyrim mania had the best of me at the time and disabled me from seeing what was right in front of me and waiting to be spun, but a month later as I found myself browsing through BandCamp and all of the artists, being as shallow as I could afford by judging every book by its cover, i.e. every album by its art, this album jumped out at me, demanding my attention.
A stunningly accurate description of the music itself, the artwork of “Still Here” illustrates the compromise that the band has made in this album. The circles on the cover can be taken to represent how much of the band's sound could have been easily outright derivative of its post-rock predecessors, and how much of the craft they've honed is legitimately theirs; the meeting point in the center is the end result, a type of music that knows how much to draw influence from its forefathers and how much of an overall construction of original sound is necessary for the band to hold credibility. While there are instantly recognizable traits of the post-rock scene, such as crescendos and emotions running rampant, there are also many definable characteristics that the band seem to possess and deftly utilize to maintain a musical freshness. Lively drum beats and abrupt cymbal crashes occur as often as the oft-clichéd reverb-heavy guitar and blistering crescendos, and while this delicate balance is preserved a new beast is created, resurrected from the ashes of the more tame run-of-the-mill artists of the movement.
The refreshing virtuosity that Followed by Ghosts displays at the art of writing emotionally comforting ballads is immediately evident in both the opening and closing track, for example. These tracks execute the amount of raw energy and emotion the group is capable of, with sometimes a considerably smaller scope of instruments required to convey the album's message. Even on the more busy tracks, all of the musicians find a way to make their voices be evenly heard, whether it be through significant drum build-ups or gorgeous guitar swells, and only every now and then does it feel like the level of creativity isn't as on the mark as it could be. However obvious the amount of effort placed into the album throughout most of its run-time is, the more generic moments do unfortunately bring down the overall power of the album, and if it isn't a lack of creativity, it's just a matter of less interesting parts. “Close”, for instance, is a pretty song, but on an album like this it's astoundingly easy to hold it to the precedent set by the most vital parts of the album, and that leads to a realization of the song's more stagnant nature. The most appealing moments on the album are where the band progress through captivating melodies at a more brisk pace, letting the listener enjoy the more memorable melodies for only as long as they need to, and this keen ability that the band possesses to realize how long the most definable hooks need to last is one that sets them on par with their contemporaries, and will hopefully push them even further through their next release.
Followed by Ghosts have witnessed the more generic traits of the genre they find themselves a part of, and they do well to keep themselves ahead of the curve by creating emotional music that runs rampant with frailty and urgency. The end result is something beautiful, and is a rather promising debut for a band that has only begun to scratch the surface of their potential. This album single-handedly pulled me out of my musical slump and realized that there is creativity in the musical world yet, that sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper to find what our next monumental occasion will be, but that it will always be there. "Still, Here" isn't begging to be your next obsession, but rather is meekly waiting for you to give it a moment to shine, and is internally overjoyed at the fun you'll have with it.
Probably has a lot to do with the length of some of the sentences. Take the 4th paragraph (prev. 2nd part of 3rd paragraph) - the first sentence is 3.5 lines long. Plus, it just appears a bit convoluted - skimmed around the edge of the matter quite a bit.
I appreciate the feedback. I find myself really bored if I write about the specific details of an album, so I try to approach it from a more abstract angle, but it's definitely easy to fall into the trap of writing too broadly, not capturing enough of the essence of the album as is necessary for others to become interested in the album. I'll definitely keep working on it, and I very much appreciate the criticism!
I tried to go for more of a stream-of-consciousness type style here, as many of my other reviews have been written in a very by-the-books manner. I found this album more difficult to write about specifically, because I feel that it isn't what technically happens in the songs that matters in the end but the feeling that it leaves the listener with. However, it is important to find a balance between that and actually describing the music, and that's one thing I'll strive for in the future.