Nothing about Ghost Notes grabs me. Everest’s debut album is a 49-minute slice of easygoing pop/rock that’s as competent as it is inoffensive. There isn’t anything particularly bad about this album, but there isn’t anything particularly memorable, either. The songs are generally well-played, and each one manages to sound different from the tune before. Somehow, though, the whole thing just sort of lays there.
Opening song “Rebels in the Roses” bounces along on simple minor-key acoustic guitar chords and a slightly funky drumbeat. Russell Pollard sings sweetly in a relaxed tenor as a couple of electric guitars join in. There’s a fuzz-guitar solo about 3/4ths of the way through the song, and it ends with some harmonizing “ah la la”‘s from the group. It’s a decent start, and second song “Trees” is a good follow-up, with a more upbeat feel and a pleasant country-rock vibe. “Into Your Soft Heart” comes next, with a minor-key groove riding on Jason Soda’s Wurlitzer playing. It’s another solid song, but not all that catchy. By this time you’re starting to wonder if the album is going anywhere.
Everest tries out a bunch of different things while remaining in the same basic “pop/rock with a hint of country” arena. “Black Covers” is a dark song in 3/4 time that has a waltz feel in the verses and an extensive guitar duel in the middle. “Angry Storm” is an acoustic-based country ballad, and album-closer “The Future” is a stark, plaintive song that brings out the Neil Young in Pollard’s voice and may give a hint as to why the band is signed to Young’s Vapor Records.
Despite the overall effect not being particularly exciting, there are only a couple of real missteps here. “Reloader” is ostensibly the band’s out-and-out rocker, but the group doesn’t seem to have the energy to pull it off convincingly. Pollard’s vocals seem ill-suited to this kind of song. He’s supposed to be singing all-out and hitting his highest notes on the album, but he sounds only slightly more intense than on the easygoing songs. And then there’s “I See it in Your Eyes”, seven minutes and fifteen seconds that should’ve been three minutes long. The song has a three-and-a-half minute instrumental break where nothing interesting happens, and then it has the audacity to fade out for another two minutes, complete with a false ending.
The press materials for Everest tout the fivesome as “a group of Los Angeles music community alumni and friends” and includes a laundry list of bands the various members have spent time in, name-checking Sebadoh, Earlimart, and The Folk Implosion, among others. The intention seems to be to build up the group’s indie/alt-rock cred, but after listening to the album it had the opposite effect on me. Looking at the list after hearing Ghost Notes a few times makes it seem like this is a bunch of good players who have spent their careers working for songwriter-based outfits and decided to form their own band despite not having a strong songwriter in the bunch. That’s when it hit me: Everest is Spoon without Britt Daniel, or maybe Wilco without Jeff Tweedy. Take away the charismatic frontman who is also the primary songwriter, and this is what you’re left with—a group of solid players who likely couldn’t manage a memorable song on their own.
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// Notes from the Road
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