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Music

Renata Zeiguer's Surreal, Relatable 'Old Ghost'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Renata Zeiguer's debut displays an honesty and attention to detail that suggests a wisdom beyond her years.

Old Ghost
Renata Zeiguer

Northern Spy

23 Feb 2018

The initial burst of creativity that comes on a debut album can be an unwieldy thing for an artist to handle. It seems unfair, given that artists of all kinds tend to develop and produce better work as they gain experience, but that first impression is a valuable one. An opening salvo that arrives in a full form with a complete, singular vision is rare, especially now that we live in a time where all the music one could ever hear is right at one's fingertips. This fact makes Renata Zeiguer's Old Ghost that much more remarkable for its very existence. In a glut of guitar-driven indie pop, it takes a truly special mind to stand out.

The standout moments on Old Ghost aren't grand and sweeping; rather, they're small details, flourishes on the margins of songs that nonetheless make the album feel more unique. Guitars bend and swoon at random intervals, and keyboards hit tones that seemingly strive to match up with Zeiguer's malleable vocals. As a result, even seemingly simple songs like lead single "Bug" have an air of strangeness to them. Each song has an element of the surreal and uncanny about them: they all seem like pop songs, yet they become something decidedly different the more time one spends with them. Perhaps it's a symptom of Zeiguer's dexterity as a performer that these songs unfold more slowly than the easy, up-front material one associates with indie rock, but whatever the case may be, it makes Old Ghost into a compelling listen.

Once those layers are peeled back, the songs on Old Ghost reveal an emotional depth expressed in fascinating fashion. Zeiguer's lyrics tell stories of spectral visions and Kafka-esque insect transformations, but through all the surreal imagery, there's a distinct insecurity being expressed here, even if it's often well-disguised. "Follow Me Down" begins with the implication of being followed by a stalker, only to turn the tables and reveal itself as a warning and a desperate invitation to take some dangerous leap downward.

"Bug" begins with the description of a sinking sensation ("The house is falling down / We're sinking underground") before developing its insect metaphor. None of this is framed with intense drama so as to signify despondency; instead, it's presented as a state of existence, the way things are sometimes. That's something truly difficult to put across in any medium, let alone a three-to-four minute pop song, yet Old Ghost continuously succeeds in this regard.

Indie pop isn't always necessarily known for its maturity. The slapdash nature that lead to the creation of some of the genre's staples is arguably more of an adolescent trait, or at least the sort of put-on of maturity that late adolescence encourages. What is striking about Renata Zeiguer's work on Old Ghost is the honest-to-God maturity of it all. This is not only art from a consummate artist, but it's also art from a person who's lived and experienced things that so many people do. Zeiguer has tapped into the surreal transition of young adulthood and made it into something remarkable and eminently listenable.

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