Review Summary: It’s with "Ghost" that makes the genre of indie-folk enjoyable. Yes, the album has its production quirks and a lack of vocal range, but those problems seem so minute when looking at its big picture.
Considering the many ways artists can record music these days, it comes as no surprise when you hear of garages, attics, and basements being turned into high quality music studios. In the case of Ben Cooper, it’s not the garage or the common basement that’s being shelled into a musical haven. Instead it's a tool shed outside of his house.
Residing from Jacksonville, Florida, Ben Cooper (Radical Face) knows a bit about patience and the excellence that can come from it. Over a span of four years he sat and stared into the wondrous life of houses and their multifaceted backgrounds and used that background to produce one of the finest pieces of folk music to surface. Entitled "Ghost," this concept album about houses and their histories displays true indie-folk that incorporates multiple layers of sound that fairly distances itself from lesser talented folk pieces. It evokes emotion, temperament, depth, and the makeup of Paul Simon-esque charisma. With a central acoustic guitar, the accordion, sprawling drums, and many different styles of piano, it blasts away all of the “has mat” that this 21st century has given us musically. Moreover, it single-handedly focuses on one concept without getting droned out with repetitiveness.
Throughout "Ghost" the listener will find that Radical Face never gives the album one dull moment. The way the music structure flows is near perfect and it seems that in most cases you’re listening as if he is trying to impress you with his musical stoutness on purpose. Right from the beginning, he shares his musical brilliance with “Welcome Home, Son.” If there’s one song on the album that will get any listener hooked, it’s this. Showcasing Radical Face’s “oh-ing and humming”, this song presents the strongest and most likable chorus on the album. In “Wrapped in Piano Strings” he combines bombarding snare claps around a centralized acoustic guitar while managing to keep the ear focused on the piano keys in the background for a very lighthearted track. Whereas on “Glory” he goes in the opposite direction where the listener can hear a three part harmony with acoustic and electric guitars, whistling, humming, and climactic drum fills that close out the six minute epic. This contradiction in track styles fits perfectly for the album and concept itself, displaying the uniqueness and different “stories” Face wants to showcase.
It must be stated that nothing on this album seems forced. There’s no overcompensation, there are no strained attempts of instrumental layering, and the vocals tend to stay around the same tone throughout. It all just seems to come naturally. And maybe that is why this album is so profound. “We push through trees now, our house is covered in ice,” he sings in “Winter is Coming,” as the accompanying acoustic guitar and bass drum follow his shrill cries.
His greatest display of the whole “house and memory” concept is found on “Sleepwalking.” Most of the song is quotable for what it’s worth, and musically it might be the strongest on the album. Low dark organ buzzes are found throughout, followed by melodic weeping from the harmonica that goes along perfectly with Face’s sincere preaching. “Got a picture on the mantelpiece/Of the way that I thought that we'd end up/But it shares no resemblance to that/Yeah, that shares no resemblance to that.”
It’s with "Ghost" that makes the genre of indie-folk enjoyable. Yes, the album has its production quirks and a lack of vocal range, but those problems seem so minute when looking at its big picture. Not only does it captivate the topic of a “concept album” perfectly, but it also displays the musical genius of Radical Face’s multi-layering at a high end. In all regards, "Ghost" is an album that will always fly under the radar, but when it's heard, it will definitely make an impression.