Heavy Ghost (3.09, Asthmatic Kitty/Touch and Go)
Byline: Don't give up! 10th time is a charm!
For: Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Antony & the Johnsons, Black Heart Procession
Proving to be the most polarizing release of the year (at least until the new Grizzly Bear drops), Heavy Ghost has garnered equal amounts of praise and derision. On one hand critics are calling it the Kid A of 2009, on the other a unrecognizable wad of self pretentious caterwauling. Writing this review has been a rock in my shoe ever since I picked it up last month.Be ye warned, Heavy Ghost is a difficult album, Stith never fully shows his cards, keeping melodies and time signatures aloof all the while his vocal crooning hits all over the boards never quite touches down anywhere. This is the type of tuneless complexity and extensive vocal vamping have launched the careers of Grizzly Bear and the Dirty Projectors into the critics hearts as well as the receiving end of their vicious attacks. Thinking the latter two are somewhat overrated, I went into this album with trepidation. The first nine listens I simply could not wrap my head around his shifting melodies, his multi tracked instrumentation, Sung Tongs style free-form strummed guitar lines; I would get furious and have to turn it off. Then, on the 10th go, a miracle happened. The light-bulb flashed, I opened myself up and let DM Stith's ghost inhabit my being for 45 minutes. I began to notice things I took for granted like: the driving bass line of "Creekmouth", the "Spinning Plates" style backwards eeiriness of "Spirit Parade", the unspeakable beauty of the hushed strings and stirring chorus of "Fire of Birds". Suddenly the unnecessarily complex braid of multi tracked vocals, guitars, and studio weirdness were compelling and exciting, not pretentious and tedious. You rarely see this amount of depth and dedication to a singular artistic vision, albeit an allusive, even mystical one, in a debut album.I am a believer in DM Stith and I thank him for making me work for his love, and I promise you dear listener, if you give it your all, you can believe too.