Second album from a pair whose on-paper promise is perhaps yet to be fully realised.
Mike Diver 2011
Given the musicians that make them up – namely ex-Simian vocalist and solo artist in his own right Simon ‘Skywave’ Lord, and DJ/producer Theo Keating, formerly of The Wiseguys and whose recordings have been released under the names Touché and Fake Blood – it’s disappointing that The Black Ghosts are yet to craft a collection that really delivers on their on-paper promise. When Animals Stare is their second album, the follow-up to 2008’s eponymous debut, and like its predecessor suffers from trying to do too much over the course of 11 tracks. The result is an incoherent set, blessed by soaring highs but hamstrung by cuts best skipped.
Focus exclusively on the best tracks here, though, and the listener is in for a treat. Opener Water Will Find a Way is a marvellous number, brass announcing the band’s arrival, fat and squelching. Lord is in fine voice here, his natural soulfulness well suited to a big and bold backdrop that’s partly revivalist, partly playful in an Avalanches-recalling sense. It doesn’t actually ‘do’ a great deal, but its simplicity is a massive plus, allowing Lord to lead the piece into easy toe-tapping territory. And when the strings arrive, albeit briefly, once senses that these two could be the greatest musical pairing that Disney hasn’t yet commissioned for their animated masterpieces.
Diamonds skips with a Hot Chip-like insistency, and finds Lord channelling his inner Alexis Taylor, vocals peaking highly and frail with emotion. "Love surrounds us, even in the darkness," he sighs, as Keating’s alluring throbs dance around him – it’s enrapturing stuff and no mistake, easily the equal of the aforementioned electro-indie favourites as well as the similarly styled, Domino-signed Junior Boys. Talk No More could have slipped onto the latest LP from The Rapture and improved its chances of connecting with the listener significantly – a dirty bassline, yelping from Lord between verses of nonchalance, and an undeniable funkiness to the piece ensure it shines as one of this album’s most instant of fixes.
But inconsistency, as with this duo’s debut, spoils proceedings somewhat. Penultimate number Forgetfulness sounds like a cheap(er) version of The Postal Service, and the drama of Even in the Darkness doesn’t quite click into place despite rumbling low end and sinister strings. Still, When Animals Stare will make a fine after-party selection for when some in the room still want to groove and others would rather snooze. Oh, and it does feature the words "suicide" and "pizza" in sequence, which is pretty special.