Introspection has been kind to Ghost Light
’s Barrett Lindgren, but there comes a point when solitude loses its appeal and the need for companionship prevails. After a winter spent ruminating, he has let the whole world into his cramped West Philly bedroom by sharing the glacial, hermetic sounds found on his latest EP Awful Feelings
, which was released via Single Girl Married Girl Records
on Valentine’s Day.
Lindgren couches mournful accusations in a lush backdrop of glockenspiel, banjo and chimes. He’s blunt as never before, serving up songs that deal as much with battling self-pity as with heartbreak. The house where Lindgren wrote the songs has a heavy presence on the album, and not merely in the echoes or the way his almost stentorian voice sounds like he’s calling to you from the top of the stairs. Domesticity reigns on Awful Feelings; beds, windows, chairs - all come into play, as if he’s trying to reclaim them from someone’s memory and build a life anew.
The EP starts with “You Already Know,” a stalwart of Ghost Light’s previous material. The song’s distinctive beginning, with that garbled synth seesawing back and forth, is now jolted into fullness by handclaps and Jarret Nathan’s militant drums. The repetition of the title sinks reproachfully into the chopping, slashing beat. In “Strangers,” the wintry gallop and twinkle of bells is at odds with a dark, wistful melody, and what are bound to be a lot of people’s favorite lyrics: “Although I barely know you, I think it’s safe to say, that we’re better off as strangers… and even though you are a rich kid, with the poorest excuses for problems, I really thought you needed me to solve them.” It’s clear: Lindgren’s over being someone’s fall guy. But it’s easier said than done to forego past comforts: occasional, arresting moments of vulnerability break through on the EP. “Can’t you tell me where the problem’s at?” Lindgren later pleads, even after he’s determined to stop taking on the burdens of others. “There are times when I still wait for you to call.” On the next track, “Leave It Alone” has a downtrodden country feel and even more somber lyrics. “And I was already dead when you found me,” he tells the subject. “I’m bitter, and you know it. I want to rest today.” This song has some of his harshest barbs yet. “So you ran back to New York, to lick wounds and write songs, to get it all wrong. You found a place in your parents’ apartment to sing back to your teenage years, ignore all your fears.” He’s done suffering for those who would rather rest on their privilege than deal with their problems. The album’s closer “Your Caves” begins with a lonesome guitar figure, and becomes a testament to past hurts and present desires. Lindgren longs for a relationship where he’s safe to project his own ideas free of disillusionment: “You are an empty home, where I want to live alone. I don’t need bother. There is a tight, taut string, and I’m recoiling in fear of everything… Where did you hide the light? Where is your bed tonight?”
Awful Feelings carries off a nimble balancing act between the Ghost Light of the past and Lindgren’s possible future directions. It feels transient, but not confused. “I don’t want to make mistakes just to stay in control,” Lindgren sings in his final lament, and watching him and his new full band (consisting of Nathan, Alex DeFeo, Josh Beaver, and Bill Rooney) expand on this newfound maturity while grappling the old fears and wounds is a promising thought. - Alyssa Greenberg