Ghost Atlas
Dust of the Human Shape



Release Date: 01/26/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In search of solid ground

Ghost Atlas's first album, All is in Sync, and There's Nothing Left to Sing About, is a textbook example of a kickass solo debut. It effortlessly weaved the gloriously hooky Sao-esque bangers Jesse Cash's "Cove Reber with consistently improving pipes of gold" voice was always meant for, alongside gorgeous softer tracks that fully explored his range as a guitarist and songwriter beyond the confines of his main band ERRA. It’s a particularly fresh breath of air within the larger context of his discography as it followed up ERRA's polarizing Drift, a solid album on its own terms but one that showed the band standing markedly less confidently than their jaw-dropping early run. Where Drift was practically crafted around anonymity due to a vocalist shift mid recording, All is in Sync... instead serves as a shining display of Jesse firmly in his element churning out tunes you can tell he is grinning while playing.

Over six years have elapsed since then. While Ghost Atlas was mostly put to rest during this time, sans a gorgeous acoustic album featuring some of this project's highest peaks, ERRA ran full speed ahead. After a brief misfire with Neon, the new lineup locked in like never before and dropped a breathtaking career spanning self titled record that shot them right back to the top of the mountain they once stood on, except with the noticeable difference of a significantly stronger marketing team. Self titled has eclipsed every other ERRA release from a commercial standpoint, and after a successful run of tours they're only expected to sustain their growth in the scene further.

Such is to say the reason Dust of the Human Shape has taken an agonizingly long amount of time was Jesse's insistence for as many eyes to be on this record as possible, and having signed to UNFD, he may finally be at a point with this project to see some serious growth. This also means this project had a heavy weight of expectation placed on it, with only an increased amplification in pressure the further it got delayed. The excitement and anticipation for the next collection of slick throwback post hardcore bangers increasingly became a worry of if that collection would happen at all.

And it didn't, as that is very much not the record we got. Instead, meet popstar Jesse Cash, ready to grace your nearest department store airwaves.

To a degree I think Cash's attempt to slick up and streamline his sound does yield some interesting results here and there that make it at least a respectable outing instrumentally, as he is still able to tastefully work in his undeniable talent at 6 and 7 string wizardry throughout the record. His webs of clean twinkly leads dazzle all throughout the landscape and are sprinkled with stunningly deployed harmonics. The only noticeably questionable timbral choices are the MIDI sounding pianos on "Seeker" and the "Wonderwall"-esque acoustic guitars that pop up on "Gaps in the Armoire", but the latter is at least slightly mitigated by a gorgeous harmony laden lead pattern that follows its hook. They certainly do more than enough to paint a gentle set of vibes, but with emphasis on the word "gentle". Though it would be disingenuous to say the "lo fi beats to study to" album cover is representative of this album's style, it's certainly far closer to that than All is in Sync....

While his playing is largely very intricate, it never really takes the spotlight from Jesse’s singing, and the songs are all generally pretty tailored to fit his hooks. This means these songs live and die off of Jesse's vocal writing. Normally one of, if not the strongest asset to his projects, this record sees him stumbling with a lot of "just okay but kind of disposable" melodies. Somehow forgetting his gift for half step resolutions up to the tonic that are central to his sharpest and most satisfying hooks, Jesse coasts on way too much stock pentatonicism that makes the transition over to a poppier sound feel a lot more forced, and a sizeable amount of his character as a writer is sanded down in the process. Lead single "Lesser Gods” is far and away the biggest offender, and its occasional 7/4 shifts aren't enough to mask the shockingly generic writing on display that sounds like John Feldman ghostwrote the track. While fortunately nothing else sinks nearly as low, it's far more of a template setter than it should have been, with a lot of the more "energetic" cuts playing it a little too safe within the confines of pop rock. A lot of the slower songs here generally drop the ball too, with "Panorama Daydream" featuring some of his most dated vocal work alongside an eyeroll worthy "undertow" centric chorus, "Gaps in the Armoire" amping the catchiness and the repetition on the chorus with a hook that's not nearly as engaging as it thinks it is, and "Seeker's" only variance from the same repetitive patterns he's been trapped in lately coming far too briefly and fleetingly in the chorus.

This pairing of songs all in a row take any of the momentum provided by excellent album opener "Void Voyeur", a promising display of this newfound poppier approach gelling naturally alongside the post hardcore stylings of old, propelled by a titanic chorus that is long overdue proof that he can still sell a good hook. But having that momentum immediately crumble knocks the album off its foundation right away throughout the first half, and the following approach of "slow song / faster song" tradeoff that unfolds throughout the remainder of the album does no favors in recovering the flow. For an album where the "vibe" is so central to the intended experience, the sequencing is set up surprisingly jarringly and even lessens some of it’s stronger songs. The title track, for instance, builds upon the formula set by "Seeker" but is far and away the best ballad of the record, built around Jesse’s best vocal melody since “Nigh to Silence”. It even goes above the standards of the slower songs on this record expectation wise with an absolutely lovely delicate harmony laden bridge delivered in a mesmerizing meditative fashion. He then immediately rips into propellant sole debut album throwback "In the House of Leaves", which exhilaratingly finally brings the adrenaline, propelling one of Jesse's sharpest hooks before dropping into an absolute belter of a bridge that shines as the strongest vocal moment of the record. Good as these songs are, they share absolutely no tonal commonalities with one another. While the transition could have gone down easier flipped around, it's a disarming exercise in whiplash as the sequencing presents it, and the meandering uneventful whimper of a closer "Death Confetti" following immediately afterwards only makes "In the House of Leaves" sound even more glaringly like it's on the wrong record.

“In the House of Leaves” and the title track, among a small handful of other highlights make it at least worth the price of admission once. “Bedsheet Tourniquet” is arguably the only other song that could slot in on an older Ghost Atlas record, which boasts a bridge that sees the more subdued instrumental choices in full harmony with Jesse’s smooth vocal timbre. “Tomato Red” also fares a bit better in ballad territory than some of the others here, with some of the most stunning lead work on the entire record serving practically as all of its bones. This very minimal presentation gives Jesse a lot of space vocally to explore and he weaves gracefully alongside the shimmering guitar line. I would be lying if I said any of these songs came even close to the heights reached on past Ghost Atlas releases though. Even “In the House of Leaves” gives away all of its ideas within the first minute or so, with “Badlands” and “Fox Rain” serving as much stronger versions of the same template, and for as strong as the title track's chorus is, it has to stumble through some very awkward verses to get there.

In a way I think this record was an inevitability, as he’s been pretty open about his growing distance from Saosin and Circa Survive as influences. However, considering that insane degree of talent he consistently displays behind the microphone and the guitar, and especially given the immense level of creativity spilling through every corner of his landmark albums, it’s hard not to be deeply underwhelmed by the songwriting on display, particularly following up his most diverse and agile writing in that regard. Dust of the Human Shape isn’t a bad album, and maybe he can put together something inspired and interesting again without necessarily having to follow his past template, but even for what it is, it just isn’t doing enough with nearly the amount of focus it needed to truly realize what it wants to be. And within the context of his larger catalog it only further collapses into dust.



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user ratings (46)
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
onionbubs
January 26th 2024


21522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

if you went back like three years ago and told me the best alkaline trio album and worst jesse album dropped the same day i think my head would have exploded





really wish this was better : / very clearly not the album anyone wanted it to be. guess its in line with the saosin trajectory tho lmao

Drifter
January 26th 2024


20899 Comments


pos. well done my layered friend. i’m sorry jesse chose cash over quality

JayEnder
January 26th 2024


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Oh shit bubs review niceee bro



Shame the album is a huge drop in quality (apparently I haven't listened yet)

onionbubs
January 26th 2024


21522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

like maybe he could win a new audience with this but its too hard a sell for fans of the debut. do think it at least goes down a little better like this tho:



1. void voyeur

2. riding the blindside

3. panorama daydream

4. polyphonic mind (this song title is still hilarious)

5. seeker

6. gaps in the armoire

7. tomato red

8. bedsheet tourniquet

9. in the house of leaves

10. dust of the human shape



like id prob lightly 3.5 that. main tracklist straight up sounds like its on shuffle

artificialbox
January 26th 2024


2072 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wooooosh nice review man. I just started the album so can’t comment too much on my own thoughts yet but Panorama Daydream is already a future skip for me lol

JayEnder
January 26th 2024


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Opener rules honestly. Off to a good start

onionbubs
January 26th 2024


21522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

see thats what i thought when i first hit play too : /



void voyeur an easy highlight (sans the opening "ooo wah ah ah" lyrics lmao okay david draiman)

JayEnder
January 26th 2024


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Lmao now I wanna hear Jesse cover Down With the Sickness

JayEnder
January 26th 2024


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, this album definitely isn't gripping me much. It's a really nice chill listen and Jesse sounds great but there's just hardly any energy here or reason to return. Compare any of these songs to Cry Wolf or the t/t on Sync and it doesn't even come close.



Polyphonic Mind and the opener are awesome tho

onionbubs
January 26th 2024


21522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

drop a 3 on it so there can be 3 3/5 ratings at the exact moment where 3 out of 3 pos'd it



edit: lfg

JayEnder
January 26th 2024


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Gotchu lol

Storm In A Teacup
January 26th 2024


45966 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lol

onionbubs
January 26th 2024


21522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

man storm you picked the very worst time to hop on the train lmao sorry brother



hope alk3 does right by you at least. really special record

JayEnder
January 26th 2024


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Closer is such a snoozefest wow. You can't have a song title like Death Confetti and have it not be a banger.

onionbubs
January 26th 2024


21522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

yeah death confetti is boring as hell. one of the worst here and far and away his worst closer on any project

JayEnder
January 26th 2024


20438 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Hope the new ERRA impresses me more than this bc it was sadly a disappointment after 6 years of waiting.

onionbubs
January 26th 2024


21522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

really bummed that erra havent made anything i care about since the deluxe. much more nervous for lp6 than i am excited at this point



pretty sure dropping pale iris in the exact spot remnant was on self titled is the band trying to fuck with me

CalculatingInfinity
January 26th 2024


9878 Comments


I was gonna try Ghost Atlas lol never mind then sorry your fav artist dropped a dud my dude.

veninblazer
January 26th 2024


16839 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Loved this. Feels central.

onionbubs
January 26th 2024


21522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

definitely still jam the debut cal!



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