(PNKSLM Recordings, out Fri 15 Feb 2019)
With 2017’s promising self-titled debut album safely tucked under their collective belt, Falmouth four-piece Holiday Ghosts have upped the ante on their new release. West Bay Playroom is a breath of fresh West Country air with all the excitement and vitality that made the new wave scene so appealing a generation ago.
The nucleus of the band – guitarist Sam Stacpoole and drummer Katja Rackin – remains and they are now joined by Ryan Cleave on bass and second guitarist Charlie Fairburn. They have captured that live recording energy and warm ambience in their sound after circumstances forced them to change their plans.
When their local studio closed the band relocated to an old playroom close to Sam’s childhood home in nearby Maenporth. It gave them an autonomy and not just a place to write and rehearse, but also the freedom of total control over the recording, too. “After a while, it wasn’t just that the acoustics were great, or that the room allowed us to set up and record live,” Katja explains. “It became more about the feeling of the place, and the experiences that we had there. The setting was really important.”
The end result is a very full sound, for a four-piece, with an element of echo as Ryan’s punchy bass drives the tracks along. From time to time it sounds a little ragged at the edges, but this is the essence of “live” music and gives West Bay Playroom its charm and character.
Katja, Sam and Charlie have all contributed songs, in a variety of bluesy (B.S. Porsche), 60s pop (Booksmart), indie (Sleep Sleep Sleep) and rock (Take Heed) styles. There are hints of Sam and Ryan’s grounding in garage and punk while Charlie has a great ear for a pop melody. Katja take a more personal approach. “I’ll write the words first, before I decide what the song’s going to be,” she says of the differing dynamics within the band, “whereas Sam will have a full instrumental track finished before he thinks about lyrics.”
There is no room for excess, here, each track is short and straight to the point with only two of the fourteen tracks coming in at longer than three minutes. Slipstream, Thinking Of You, Booksmart and Stuck Here are all highly commercial tracks, potential hit singles and crying out for radio play, the later three all featuring particularly strong vocals from Katja. It will be amazing if, come the end of the year, Holiday Ghosts have not become a household name.