TINY BLUE GHOST- ‘Between the Botanicals’
The third album by Tiny Blue Ghost is beautiful, brilliant… and a total bummer. This is the sound of dusk, of the final days of summer, and, just maybe, of something even more significant fading away. The record’s release date last week makes perfect sense but so distinct and powerful is the vibe here that it could have come out in the middle of June and your seasonal affective disorder would still kick in after one listen.
‘Between the Botanicals’ finds the New York outfit expanding from a duo to a full band- bringing guitarist Kyle McDonough, bassist Andy Vlad, and keyboardist Kristoff Lalicki into the fold- but the end result is actually less noise, not more. The direct indie pop of 2019’s ‘Mend Again’ has been peeled back and now the sound of Tiny Blue Ghost is thick, meditative, melancholy, and almost hypnotic. It’s a sound made to fill your ears but never deafen them. It’s bedroom pop from a haunted house, or shoegaze a million miles away maybe. At this point I’m tempted to just call it alt-rock and move on, but it so rarely rocks at all.
In place of distinct riffs there are reverb-drenched washes of guitar, instead of big build-up drums the percussion is primarily understated and steady, and while Marissa Carrol ably proves the real power of their vocals in places, they most often employ a clear, emotive tone. Ok, so ‘The Blacktop’ does feint at post-rock until a crash of distortion and trumpet turn it into something closer to Midwest emo than Explosions in the Sky. ‘Warning Sign’ sets off my jazz alarm but is bright and bouncy and magnetic, and one of the most direct cuts here. And then ‘Fragile Coward’ is an abrupt but appreciated gear change- a singular moment of intense, powerful, attention-grabbing punk rock expression. But then ‘Lavender’ is a heartfelt, heartbreaking ballad, and opener ‘Haven’ tops a soft, wistful swirl of synths with a gently plucked guitar line that reminds me of that one Taylor Swift song.
‘Between the Botanicals’ never feels as busy as all that might make it sound. There’s a cohesive, finished quality to these songs, and although some might actually have benefit from further exploration, most of them finish before the three-minute mark without ever sounding cluttered. The main sonic takeaway remains that autumnal melancholy. Now, there’s every chance I’m projecting here- saying way more about my own current wellbeing than I am about this album- but come on, even the hues of the cover art look like day fading to night, warm giving way to winter cold. There’s a song called ‘Summer Sighs’! Whatever, it all adds up to an outstanding soundtrack for the end of August and beyond.