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Ghost Owl – “Say Goodbye To Finland” Album Review

Sometime around 2011, things began to reach a boiling point for Adam Perry, Matthew MacDonald and Albert Suttle, the three men who make up Athens, Georgia’s Ghost Owl. Their band Perpetual Groove had built enough of a following over their decade plus of relentless touring that it seemed they had their collective futures set in a nationally-touring, hard working band… when suddenly the roof caved in. A tale as old as the electric guitar was starting to fester and had begun imploding the band: rock n’ roll and the effects of the lifestyle if breeds on having a healthy life. Without rehashing stories and pouring salt in old wounds, the group had reached a point where they could no longer continue in it’s current incarnation, and faced a future without their principal songwriter.

That left 3 of the 4 remaining members with a choice: curse the gods and become resigned to a fate that involved getting straight jobs, or pick up the pieces and work their asses off on a new project. Perry, MacDonald and Suttle’s answer was Ghost Owl and their debut record Say Goodbye To Finland , an album bursting with all the feelings you’d expect such a situation to evoke; the crushing disappointment of such a loss and the simple beauty of still having hope.

It’s refreshing to hear some darkness and disappointment peppered throughout Say Goodbye To Finland, as it adds a depth to the songs that is generally lacking nearly every other “jam band” record. Perry is now the principle songwriter steering the ship, stepping out from his previous duties on the bass to the roll of frontman on lead vocals, bass and synths. While you can feel Perry letting off some steam lyrically, the band’s determination to not be resigned to their fate shines through as well, shining a light directly at the end of the tunnel. The album for me evokes a lot of the same feelings that Spring does: the reawakening and reemergence of life and hope after a seemingly endless winter, which in likelihood is probably how a lot of this process felt.

Opening track “A Horse Named Reckless” announces both Ghost Owl’s and the album’s arrival with a delicate intro that gushers into an Explosions In The Sky-esque peak. It’s a telling track that signifies the rebirth of these musicians and that Ghost Owl is an entirely new project with an entirely new sound. “Idiot Kid” sees Ghost Owl trending closer to Perpetual Groove’s wheelhouse of foot-tapping “get down” numbers, but the lyrics here also reflect the darker mood that’s on the edge of most of Say Goodbye To Finland, “American dreams are faded / Kick down the walls of your city tonight”.

“Sky Yellow” sounds like a Depeche Mode cut hopped up on speed and will undoubtably become a favorite of the Ghost Owl’s live show, as I could almost picture a girl in a sun dress dancing hysterically in front of a strobe light while I listened to the song. Tracks like “Sky Yellow”, “Head Above Water”, “Idiot Kid” and a few others will become living, breathing organisms in the band’s live setting as they’re stretched out and experimented with live, as Ghost Owl is want to do.

Say Goodbye To Finland is a rare beast in the jam band world: a record from naturally improv-centric musicians that refreshingly finds time for song craft, while still finding plenty of space to explore songs as jam vehicles in the live setting. By Say Goodbye To Finland closer “Sun Will Shine”, Ghost Owl have been through the hurt and confusion and emerged determined to overcome it and continue on. You find yourself feeling the cathartic joy and relief the band must have when they finished the record.

Here’s to hoping that feeling continues.

“Heads Above Water” live:

Final Thoughts

An enjoyable melding of different styles that makes for a very entertaining debut.

Overall Score 3.2