Review – “Winter” – Locomotive Ghost

Locomotive Ghost - _Winter_ Coverreviewed by Michael Thomas

It’s been a long journey for Locomotive Ghost, who have now arrived at the end of their “seasonal” project, which has seen them release a four-song EP for each season of the year. It’s been more than a simple promotional gimmick, as they clearly put a lot of thought into organizing their songs.

No EP specifically has songs called “Summer” or “Fall” or anything like that, but they all succeed in bringing about the feelings associated with each season. In spring, we’re all happy to be experiencing the gradual thawing of winter; in summer, we celebrate in the warm breeze; in the fall, moods begin to darken as things get colder. In the winter, we do our best to not succumb to cold and snow.

Winter is perhaps the grandest EP of the four-recording cycle, mostly thanks to the bigger range of instrumentation. The band has also been known to effectively embrace minimalism (like in the wonderful “Isaac Newton” from the Summer EP, which has a link to this EP that will be explained later), and it’s great to see them similarly embracing their bigger sound here.

“February” opens up the EP, and it encompasses well what everyone is feeling—namely, “when the hell is spring going to arrive?” There’s a defined darkness to this song, which begins with psychedelic-sounding guitar chords over pounding piano. Mike Buckley’s voice is also slightly reverbed, making it sound as though he’s trapped, and don’t we all feel trapped in the dead of winter? Cortney Osness’ vocals come in a little later as the song builds up with the help of some horns.

“Hold On” is the first song that hints at something beyond wallowing in the cold. The first half of the song is heavy, starting with loud horns and dramatic strings, but halfway through a dramatic shift in tone happens, and some simple plucked strings back up not sung lyrics, but spoken-word poetry, something the band likes to embrace every now and then.

“Bye Bye, Higgs Boson” showcases the band’s nerdier side, tying in themes of faith with the story of the “God particle” discovered not too long ago. It’s also probably the catchiest song, the opening instrumentation sounding like it could be something from Arcade Fire. As it picks up steam, it ends with the band singing an infectious bout of “na na na’s.”

“Afterglow” brings the EP, and EP cycle, to a close, with a dreamlike wash of instruments and quiet-but-still-there vocals. One phrase heard more than once is “beneath the apple tree,” a direct reference to the opening line of Summer‘s “Isaac Newton.” The next phrase is “Won’t you take me please?” suggesting that spring might be firmly on its way.

Winter will be available March 1 via Bandcamp.

Top Track: “Hold On”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)

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