Review: Silvertongue – Ghosts

About one and a half weeks before Halloween, Silvertongue – a band formed in Lowell, MA – gifted fans with a not so spooky, but long anticipated treat (although it did involve “Ghosts”). Following two EP’s, Honey, It’s Alright and Cold Front, Silvertongue released their debut album Ghosts across most major streaming platforms. The album fits a variety of palates, and listeners who enjoy most any genre of music can find something that suits their taste buds. Drawing from influences such as The Black Keys, The Lumineers, Austin Basham and Young the Giant, Silvertongue hits a wide array of the major music food groups. 

The album opens with the title track “Ghosts”, which draws the listener in with its slow but powerful build and dynamic instrumental variation, and keeps the listener enthralled with its captivating lyrics and catchy melody. The second track “The Guitar” encompasses enchanting harmonies and sorrowful yet hopeful lyrics, that intensify with the slow build and climax of the track. Following this, “Honey” brings an uplifting folk feel to the album, and leaves listeners with sweet images of the person they long for and love vividly in their head, while “Heart & Mind” leaves the listener with these same images, but replaces the feelings with a stronger sense of yearning for what has been and what the artist hopes will be again in the future. Succeeding this, “Shine” is overall a lyrically simple song that focuses more on the blend of musical textures and harmonies, to create a work that sits charmingly in the ears. On the other hand, “Mask” is a more lyrically complex song while instrumentally being composed only of piano and vocals, to echo the pain and introspection the singer is portraying. Two of the more lyrically playful songs on the album, “Rubi” and “Aloe”  are found towards its end. “Rubi”, named after the famous Rubinoff vodka, tells of the trials and tribulations of dealing with this alcohol with a melody that is so catchy, you’ll find it almost impossible not to hum after listening. “Aloe”, using a plethora of metaphors, talks about “those nights where you go out and you strike out completely with talking to girls, and then you go home to your bed all nice and made, because you thought maybe you’d meet someone, and then you just crawl into bed like, ‘well, I’m happy I cleaned my room at least’”, summed up in the words of lead singer Andrew Stevens. Finally, Ghosts closes with the bonus track “N. Wall Ave”, a raw recording of Stevens singing and playing the guitar. The emotion and intensity (and sucker punch of feeling to the gut and the heart) that “N. Wall Ave” brings, perfectly summarizes the passion and fervor that the members of Silvertongue so incredibly brought to the entirety of their first album. 

As distinctive as the blend of influences and sounds that make up Ghosts is, its creation and production is equally as unique. Though a majority of the album was created while the band was located in Lowell Massachusetts, it was recorded and produced in a hodgepodge of places including Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, and at Red 13 Studios in Framingham Massachusetts. In a recent interview I did with Stevens and bassist Kevin Reilly, Stevens described the album as a “Frankenstein” due to the plethora of locations and people involved in bringing it to life. Though upon hearing the album, it’s virtually impossible for the listener to tell that it was formed in a melting pot of places, Silvertongue faced many challenges with recording an album during the middle of a global pandemic, and the band moving to a variation of spots across the U.S.. On the writing and recording side of the album, Stevens mentioned that being away from the mixing certainly proved to be stressful and their organizational skills were put to the test. The natural ebb and flow that comes with bouncing ideas for production during recording and mixing, was overall a slower process with the band being so spread out. 

The engineering side brought to light its own array of challenges as well. Reilly, who mixed the entirety of the album except for the bonus track (which was mixed by drummer Matt Garvin) mentioned that it was very anxiety provoking at times with trying to keep track of everything, but states that he thinks that “we’re all stronger, and better people and musicians because of it, just because we worked through a lot of adversity trying to make everything work”. On the technical side of things, not being at a studio for some of the songs also aided the band in some setbacks. Tracks “Aloe” and “Honey” were recorded completely out of the studio, and Garvin remarked that while recording drums at his home in Mansfield at the time, he only had one working microphone, and stated that he “had to do each part kind of air drumming the other parts to get good isolated tracks of each drum”. 

It’s no surprise that with all of these challenges the band’s original release date they had hoped for of April 20th (a year after their first EP was released) was inevitably pushed back to October 15th.  This delay however, gave the band the chance to add more songs (like “N. Wall Ave”) to the album that they hadn’t planned on being there initially, and gave them an opportunity to create a work that they “could be proud of for hopefully years to come” Reilly explained,  “and I think that’s really a big milestone for all of our careers”. Reilly also advised listeners to “take the leap” when it comes to creating music, or doing anything that they have a passion for. Stevens mentioned that for a very uncertain and frightening time, it’s a “surreal feeling to have written something and taken the time to really try to perfect it and do it with your best friends during the worst time most people have had in their lifetime because of like, everything that’s going on, and to be able to get through it and put something out that people really like”. 

As for the future of the band, Stevens, guitar player Jake Hogan and bass player Dorian Taylor are now located in Portland, Oregon while Garvin resides in Vermont, and Reilly lives in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Stevens mentions that he hopes Garvin and Reilly will always be a part of Silvertongue in the recording sense, even if they can’t join the rest of the band to play at gigs. Stevens explains that “Kevin is so much of the sound mix wise, I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable doing an album without him involved because we kind of found that sound together, like just by mixing and learning with each other, so it’d be a weird thing. Even if he’s not physically like a member of the band, he’s always going to be mixing, he’ll always be putting down instruments in the recording. And the same with Matt”. 

Ghosts is an album about finding and losing love, getting hammered, striking out, and wearing a mask and breaking it down, and is a testament that the minds and the willpower of many individuals can create something timeless in a great time of uncertainty.

-Shae Carter

Featured photo by Jack Healey