Heavy Ghost is the debut album from American singer/songwriter David Stith. Hailing from Buffalo, NY, Stith released his first record this year after being surrounded by music his whole life and has previously devoted his time to writing and drawing.
A bold piano sets the record into motion and from the first minute of the opening track, "Isaac’s Song," the record’s unique personality immediately takes hold. The track builds and subsides, with multiple sounds all crashing into each other -- and although it sounds like too much is happening at once, it carries off and leaves you with a tingling tongue, all in anticipation of what’s to come.
Stith’s vocals shimmer and echo all through Heavy Ghost, and it never strays too far from Thom York-ish qualities. The fourth track, “Pigs,” demonstrates his vocal capacity, while muffled acoustic strings dance around his words. The final minute of the track ends with an eerie drone, conjuring images of ghosts and spirits, as the sound swims all over your skin.
The start to "Spirit Parade" is brilliant, with what sounds like a typewriter tapping away, which leads into a soup of instruments swashing together to create an addictive and provocative sound.
Perhaps the highlight of Heavy Ghost comes with the gorgeous and unexpected intro to "Fire of birds", as fluttering violins capture the ear as they lead into perfect acoustic plucking, before swiftly rejoining the song at a leisurely, mellow pace. The song builds to the catchiest lyrical moment of the whole album, with the words, "we danced like we were on fire".
"Morning Glory Cloud" slides in with a sense of poignancy and purpose, as Stith sings “I have to breathe, I have to breathe, I had a dream and know its gone", as once again his vocals harmonize the song and expand it into a more rounded creation. "Braid Of Voices" is the closest this album comes to a dramatic climax, but it rises to exactly the right level before a small yet noteworthy change in tempo ends the song.
The album ends with the very loud and unsettling "Wig", which surges into infiltrating noise halfway through the song, and stays with you long after the album has finished; the listener is now more suitably aware of DM Stith at this point in the album.
Stith has had the chance to release a record into the world and its feels like he hasn’t wasted a single second. His vocal performance is fantastic and ever present, and the abundance of piano through the record only advances it further as it provides a refreshing break from the consistent presence of synthesizers in many new releases.
Heavy Ghost is intricate and intimate, textured and layered with a multitude of instruments and sounds, and although there isn’t a definable climax with any track, this album feels like it’s supposed to be a work of delicacy and subtlety, and takes quite a few listens until the full tapestry unfurls to reveal its shining bones.
Reviewed by Asa Masters.