February 29, 2012

Test Spin: Dirty Ghosts

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Although iTunes lists Dirty Ghosts’ second album Metal Moon as “alternative,” it is difficult to say exactly what genre of this collection of 10 very unique tracks is. The album has the hard guitar and loud lead vocals of 80s rock and the beat of electronic music. But its uniqueness comes from the hint of R&B and hip-hop that resonates in the background of several of the songs.

The band, which originated in San Francisco, is composed of Allyson Baker and Carmon Binks, both of whom started out in the rock group Parchman Farm. Along with Baker and Binks is Baker’s husband of seven years, the well-known indie rapper, Aesop Rock, who coproduced the album.

Aesop Rock, no doubt, is the best part about this album. His characteristically edgy beats grace the background of most of these tracks. It gives the songs a unique jump and helps the listener ease into Baker’s less than angelic voice. The beat reminiscent of hip-hop is particularly effective in tracks like “Steamboat to Concord,” which is one of the Metal Moon’s best. Without it, the album would probably be a little boring.

This is Baker’s debut as lead vocals and, well, it is nothing special. Although she definitely sports an angry rocker chick vibe appropriate for tracks like “Ropes It In” and “No Video,” the schtick gets a little exhausting after awhile. You must really be dedicated to modern punk to have this in your Top 25.

The album starts off strong with “Ropes That Way,” which successfully evokes the California punk vibe of the band’s origins. Baker recently told Spinner, “This is probably one of the more fun songs on the record. I was thinking of early MTV music videos when we were making this.” The sentiment shows. This track, one of the longest on the album, is very catchy. The refrain and chorus are perfectly repetitious, and in this case, the sound works effectively for Baker’s loud voice. If there were a single off of this album, this would be it.

The next three tracks, “Shout It In,” “Surround the Controls” and “Battle Slang” are all very similar to each other. This is a point in the album where Baker’s voice comes on too strong. Her loudness only works on the fast tracks. Hearing another band member taking lead vocal duties on some of these tracks would have been refreshing.

“No Video,” picks the album back up again with its unique lyrics and hip sound. I assume Baker was thinking of classic MTV while writing this song as well. “Katana Rock” and “19 in ’71,” however, are less than impressive. These songs belong more as background music in Urban Outfitters than on classic MTV.

It’s a good thing that “Steamboat to Concord” is next because it is easily the best song on the album. The music has a great classic hip-hop vibe and a hint of blues — so much so that it softens Baker’s voice and makes it a very interesting and enjoyable song. Even though it is slower and quieter, this could be the second single after “Ropes That Way.”

The album concludes with two tracks, “Pretty Face” and “Beast Size.” “Pretty Face,” unfortunately, falls into the same somewhat boring caliber of “Shout In It,” “Surround the Controls” and “Battle Slang.” “Beast Size,” however, is a very strong finish. It is much more emotional song than the other tracks and Baker finally proves her voice doesn’t always overpower the music. On this track, Baker even sounds reminiscent of British indie group The xx’s Romy Madley-Croft, which is a refreshing change.

Overall, Metal Moon works well as a punk album, and Aesop Rock’s presence in the production is both noticeable and necessary. However, there are only three songs, “Ropes That Way,” “Steamboat to Concord” and “Beast Size,” that outshine the rest of the album. If you were lucky enough to escape Ithaca’s cold and rain in San Francisco last week, you may have caught the band playing the Noise Pop Musical Festival, which it did as part of their promotion for Metal Moon. It may make it to the East Coast on future tours, but, for now, the band’s shows — and their sound — seem to be stuck in California.

Original Author: Lucy Goss