Ghost Prom is a band based in upstate New York which was created by the husband and wife team of Cameron and Eden Crosby, who describe themselves as: “Two kids from a missing milk carton who never got found, died and became ghosts. While ghosts we got a couple guitars, lived off s'mores - coffee - cigarettes and started a band. We play exclusively proms." Ghost Prom’s newest release is titled Void Sweet Void. It contains three previously released singles, each featuring similarly eerie cover designs (old photographs of strangers with faces scratched out). In fact their entire visual aesthetic is quite striking, including the main page on their website.
Stylistically, Ghost Prom music has been described as “an intricate tapestry woven from diverse influences (Elliott Smith, Sam Shepard, Early Johnny Depp movies, Townes Van Zandt and Peter Doherty) that have shaped their lives. Through lyrics that explore vulnerability, addiction and the triumph of honesty, they invite listeners into their world, sharing their struggles and triumphs as a source of solace and connection.”
The opening track “5am” immediately sounds like old time rock n’ roll, but played like a vinyl record on the slowest speed. The guitars have a uniform chunkiness (along with a slippery, bendy quality) that binds the track like peanut butter. This is one of those songs where the verses are not that striking but the choruses erupt like an explosion from the earth’s core. Not necessarily louder (though they are) but more rich and involving. Cameron handles the sleepy lead vocal duties here, with Eden joining on the harmonies, and it makes for a beautiful pairing. The band explains their sound here as resulting from a “wrong note” during the chorus which turned out to be “the missing element that had eluded us.” There’s also a blast of slide guitar that recalls a Mr. George Harrison.
The vocals in “DESTROY” feel to me like Paul Simon by way of Elliott Smith. This track feels very different, with a tribal beat and lots of reverse guitars and other sounds surrounding the jangly chords. Some of the guitars amazingly mimic race cars speeding past the speakers! Overall a bit more dense but undeniably intriguing. “Kickstand” shows a more intimate side of the duo, with gentle classical guitar and quiet vocals. When the full-band sound kicks in, there’s a ’60s pop organ that fits nicely. “I’m So Tired” shares a title with a classic John Lennon song, but also shares that song’s palpable ennui and even its chunky, lumbering guitar sound.
“Let Me Alone” is described as “a down-tempo, country-leaning neo-noir folk tune… a comforting entry into Ghost Prom’s softer side.” Elliott Smith has been mentioned before but this is a track where I really feel his presence (and I say that as someone who watched Smith play solo in a cramped record store). Even the backing keys and guitars compare favorably with either/or and XO, though the pedal steel guitar is a surprising and beautiful touch.
“Gramma” feels like the stellar vocals of the Fleet Foxes were combined with the loose grit of The Weakerthans. The subject matter’s a little sad to talk about but, if I don’t listen too hard I can let the bittersweet harmonies and tough, jangly guitars wash over me. The band’s paperwork calls this “a distinctive blend of Small Room Indie Rock and Countrygaze, reflective of Great Grandpa, Oso Oso, and Kurt Vile.”
With “My Buddy” the steel guitar comes to the fore, and I quickly had to check if “country” was part of the band’s genre list (it is not) but they mention Patsy Cline right up top so this may be a momentary diversion. Truly committed or no, I would totally buy these guys onstage at the Grand Ole Opry. “Backseat” has the quavery, barely-hatched quality of a White Album demo, as envisioned by (yet again) Elliott Smith, especially in his four-track days. The vocals forge a winding path through the guitars and deep drum beats, like a dark overgrown forest of sound. The track abruptly cuts off, though, which is a technical glitch that should be fixed. “Murray’s Song” returns to the nascent folk-country tones these guys obviously love but were loathe to mention up front, and whoever is playing pedal steel needs a special credit.
This was a consistently surprising and enjoyable album that I’m making part of my permanent collection. Discover for yourself!
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