Ghost, the solo debut of Radical Face (a.k.a. twenty-four-year-old Ben Cooper, who also plays in the duo Electric President), shows a young songwriter with considerable talent. It’s an intimate affair — the album was recorded in his shed in Jacksonville — but a wide-ranging one. This is lovely acoustic and vocals pop, with a Shins-y melodicism and a nasal harmonies from deep within the brain. This full-length isn’t radical, but it’s certainly promising.
Cooper’s lyric style and presentation is in the Iron & Wine range, dealing mainly with personal emotion but with clever turns of phrase and a laid-back singing approach. Musically, Ghost offers chamber-size orchestral pop that’s rarely pretentious and never overbearing. It’s easy to swallow, and the lush background instrumentation never draws attention to itself.
Still, despite its maturity, Ghost falls into many of the traps commonly seen in young songwriters. Hokey sound effects are rampant and include such hoary clichés as children laughing and playing, trains passing, boots marching and docks creaking. Likewise, the music sags in the second half. It’s not that the quality diminishes; it’s that Cooper lacks the range, so the songs stay within the same dynamic and emotional vein. It picks up near the end with the zippy “Winter Is Coming,” but Cooper sends us off with songs whose dullness is indicated by their titles: “Sleepwalking” and “Homesick.” Eesh.
“Welcome Home” MP3 [audio:http://media.podbop.org/Radical%20Face%20-%20Welcome%20Home%20Son.mp3]