The debut album Do You Feel It by the quintet Ghost Hotel who are based out of Frederick, Md. (in case you're ever in town), reveals a knack for soothing electropop, memorable duets and breezy vocal harmonies. All the musicians play like they could be the lovechildren of Death Cab For Cutie and Stars, and some DNA from The Delgados even reveals itself here and there.
Originally conceived by high school buddies Sam Paxton and Alison Crawford, Ghost Hotel eventually expanded into a five-piece to realize its pop ambitions. The production quality on Do You Feel It is excellent. The sounds never feel forced together and proper attention is given to each individual player. Paxton and Crawford provide the vocals to infectious guitar hooks and buoyant percussion. The former has a matter-of-fact voice that does justice to the ballads of modern heartbreak while the latter delivers the sharp notes for contrast. Both are capable of more forceful singing, as heard on "Howard Hughes, Captain of the Industry,” but unfortunately it feels exactly like that - forced.
Many of the songs are radio-ready pop numbers, such as the excellent "Simple Fiction", which treats to silky synth lines, handclapping and buzzing guitar while Paxton and Crawford wax nostalgic with lyrics like, "Summer nights in your car/we're driving out in town so we can see the stars/and all I want is to forget the past/because disappointment comes way to fast." It's the sort of line anyone can get down with; a throwback to the adventures of youth before you realize being an adult really, really sucks. Paxton's delivery may come off as too saccharine and self-indulgent for some, but his tone of resignation is a representative for the feeling he conveys. It should also be noted that sound is further benefitted from the production courtesy of Gypsy Cab Studios.
For the most part, the album remains squarely in the realm of cutsie-pie twee (I blame Crawford, the way she sings on songs like the beach blanket melody of "All Day Ocean" is too adorable), but the band is capable of producing startling beauty, even if it does come at the very end of the album with "A Banner Year.” Contemplative guitar chords escort Crawford as she sings,"Falling asleep with my feet on the dash/as we rode in your car through the snow and the ash on the roads.” It's a testament to a band's creative strength when they can hold on to their whimsy while opening up with their wariness before your very ears. As the song progresses, twinkling piano and opulent guitar work provide the closing music while Paxton croons, "This year will be better.” Ghost Hotel released this album in 2012, and I can only hope that prediction held up.
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