Extra Happy Ghost!!! - Modern Horses
Record Label: Saved By Radio/Saved By Vinyl
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Extra Happy Ghost!!! is the creative outlet for Calgary native Matthew Swann. He performs experimental pop that veers heavily towards garage psychedelia. Modern Horses was recorded by eccentric savant Chad VanGaalen in his studio Yoko Eno. The album was named for nine horses that panicked and jumped off a Calgary bridge in 2005 while being corralled toward the city's downtown.
How is it?
Hit and miss. Album opener "Mercy Mercy," is lilting, mournful and whiskey-soaked. The guitars are haunting and the vibe is ethereal. In sum, it's everything you'd expect from a project with "ghost," in the title. The song also serves as a great opening statement. Swann does not possess the most effective timbre but he never once overdoes it. There's restraint, control and a fair share of modesty in this opening salvo.
"So at One," is twee and gnomic but teeters towards surf-rock and 90s grunge in one well fell swoop. There's twinges of psychedelia naturally, but the entire effort is somewhat schizophrenic and scattered. In short, Swann probably could have used a better choice for a second track, but so it goes. Towards the song's latter half, the exercise fades into an ambient, spacey outro that one wishes would last far longer than it does.
"Fire on Fire," is a blur that whizzes by in a hallucinatory nature that seems tethered to consumption of soft drugs and Dramamine. "Pitiful," does the same thing but uses computer effects to argue its point. Unfortunately its around this juncture that the magnetism of Extra Happy Ghost!!! begins to wear thin.
Modern Horses turns around with the sorrow-laden "Brain Damage," in which Swann's vocals perfectly compliment aping guitars and an air-tight rhythm section. Tone is not an easy thing for a garage-psychedelia outfit to achieve but on "Brain Damage," Extra Happy Ghost!!! perfectly capture the essence of tone. "Feed Wolves Luck," is a nice step forward, but nothing to write home about.
With the exception of the funereal dirge "Haunted House," the album's final two statements are nothing short of perfection. "J23439," features bristling guitar work and Swann's best vocals yet. When he sounds like this, he is honestly capable of turning heads from everyone in North America. Yep, everyone. The quirky and enigmatic title track borrows heavily from female vocals and makes for a rewarding and memorable final statement.
As one would expect, Modern Horses has all the hallmarks of Van Gaalen and his many eccentricities. There's armfuls of experimentation but enough of a pop gloss to make this point towards something promising. Though prognosticating future success is never easy, one would think on his next effort, Extra Happy Ghost is certain to turn some heads.