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What I’m listening to this week: Ghostland Observatory

June 23, 2009

Robotique Majestique – 2008

I have to admit I never understood the appeal of Ghostland Observatory until I saw their episode of Austin City Limits on the air.  Actually, I had the opportunity to watch the taping; it was a double-billing with The Decemberists.  My husband and I chose not to stay for Ghostland because it was already late and a work night, and well, we just didn’t feel the urge to see it.  Several months later, we saw the episode on the air (check out this mini-doc about the band including footage from the show) one Saturday night and the conversion was complete: I suddenly liked it.  And how could you not…there’s nary a frontman alive willing to execute those dance moves and who holds enough energy and charisma to enthrall a crowd on his own accord (and seem so sweetly normal off stage!).  Shortly after seeing the episode, I purchased Robotique Majestique.

If you’ve ever seen this Austin fave live, you’ll know what to expect from Robotique.  It’s all synths and drum beats in various forms and of course, Aaron Behren’s yelping, primal vocals.  The best tracks on the album are “Heavy Heart”, which recalls their biggest hit to date “Sad Sad City”, and “The Band Marches On”, which has the best songwriting on the album and the least ear-piercing vocal.  “No Place for Me” is a rockin’ retro throwback mixed up with the obligatory electronic noise, and the closing track “Free Heart Lover” is typical Ghostland.

The unsuccessful parts of the album begin and end with the many instrumental tracks.  From “Opening Credits” to the very sloppy “HFM”, the songs sort of whiz by without catching your ear and that’s most likely not what the band was going for.  Behrens is definitely their best asset at this point and he should probably appear in most tracks.

For the most part, Robotique Majestique is just purely enjoyable.  Are Ghostland derivative?  Yeah.  Is the album a little too messy?  Oh yeah.  But they don’t take themselves too seriously, they honestly love to perform and do it well, and I think that’s credit-worthy in itself.

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