Holiday Ghosts – Holiday Ghosts (PNKSLM)

Were things ever simple? Or is this merely a fiction we construct for ourselves, a longing for times long past that were never there to begin with? On their debut, Holiday Ghosts sure do make it seem like there used to be such a time. Holiday Ghosts is heavily inspired by 60s rock ‘n’ roll as well as the 90s’ dreamy twee pop, with a playful, consequence-lacking mood as a result. And somewhere along, they’ve got something right, because they have captured the smallness of the world in all its delight and all its pain.

Listen, for example, to the excellent single ‘In My Head’. This is not a song about existential angst, or about true and hurting love, or about paralyzing emptiness. This is a song about simple problems; nothing a bottle of red or a good night’s sleep won’t be able to fix. But of course, we all have those problems from time to time. And while in the grand perspective of existence and how strange it is to be anything at all those worries are specks of dust, at the time they can occupy us completely and seem the world to us. (These questions we turn around and around in our heads aren’t that trivial. They’re about who we are and who we want to be and where we fit in with what goes on around us). Interestingly, these small no-things can almost only be expressed in song. If ‘In My Head’ were a novel, it would be terribly melodramatic. If it were a film, it would be either dull or silly, like that God Help the Girl flick (Wes Anderson is about the only director I can think of who comes closest to expressing the message of ‘In My Head’ in film-form with all the seriousness it deserves). But as a song, the message appears closer to the listener, and it turns into something you can relate to.

Simplicity pops up on Holiday Ghosts elsewhere too in many forms. The songs themselves, in terms of lyrics, structure and melody, are straightforward and at times childlike – where childhood is yet another form of uncomplicated life we long back to. The way the album refers to the past, too, expresses a sort of wistful wish for a world that isn’t as complex as this one. ‘Sleep Through the Morning’ harks back to 13th Floor Elevators and the whole Nuggets bunch. ‘Ron Song’ is reminiscent of Girls, who were also easily satisfied (“Oh, I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine”). Elsewhere, holiday ghosts of the Marine Girls and numerous Sarah Records bands haunt Holiday Ghosts’ songwriting. Those were the times, eh? These reference points – and their variety – show that this longing isn’t some sort of millennial escapism, but a timeless theme. The way I see it, it is a philosophy that runs all the way back to the children men were in the Garden of Eden.

To an extent, this philosophy is questionable. Isn’t this longing for the past and for a simple life in which we all know each other the same kind of attitude that breeds Brexits? And if not that, isn’t it nonetheless an evasion of our responsibilities and reality? I haven’t formulated an answer to this question, but sometimes it worries me. Of course, there are differences: the friendliness of music like Holiday Ghosts’ is meant to be inclusive (but to what demographic?), and the simplicity is realized to be simplistic, and in this way the music acts to relativize.

Holiday Ghosts ends with second highlight ‘Can’t Bear to Be Boring’, on which Katja Rackin starts to sound like Courtney Barnett (and that’s always a compliment!). Holiday Ghosts are very much my type of band, with their combination of male and female vocals, both of which I like equally this time. They’re a loud-but-polite-and-cool kind of band. They’re a rough-and-ready I could also be in a band kind of band. They’re a why aren’t these people my friends kind of band? They execute the formula delightfully, with much craftmanship and gusto. From this perspective, simplicity is a virtue, and Holiday Ghosts a righteous and unstoppable debut from a band already on their way to legendary.

-- Caspar Jacobs, September 23, 2017