A couple weeks ago, I saw this tweet, from Deafheaven frontman George Clarke:
being put on 'most anticipated albums' lists when u have about 5% of a record written is kinda stressful lol
— George Clarke (@George_LeSage) December 29, 2014
I believe it! I can’t help thinking, though, that for Deafheaven, the real pressure comes not from the media, but the band’s peers. Every time I hear a song like Woods Of Desolation’s “This Autumn Light” or Sivyj Yar’s “Distant Haze Was Arising,” I feel like the bar for every band playing this style of music — sweeping, anthemic, shoegaze-y, post-rock-y black metal — is raised another couple notches. Now everybody has to do better than that.
The forthcoming sophomore LP from Chinese band Ghost Bath feels almost like a direct challenge to Deafheaven, though. I know, you guys think I’m obsessed, but look at the evidence: There are song titles on this thing (“Happyhouse,” “Beneath The Shade Tree”) that bear at least passing resemblances to song titles on Sunbather (“Dream House,” “The Pecan Tree”). Could be a coincidence, I admit! How about this: The new Ghost Bath album is called … Moonlover.
Doesn’t matter, of course. The songs are what matters; the songs have to deliver. I’ve only heard one song off Moonlover — “Golden Number,” which you can stream below — and man, does it deliver. “Golden Number” starts at an apex and only builds from there. The climaxes just keep coming: There’s the swell of strings around the 40-second mark, the joyous lead guitar that peels off at about 1:45, the breakdown at about 3:10, where the tremolo-picked guitars are thrown into sharp relief and sound almost like a choral section … AND IT JUST KEEPS SOARING HIGHER. (An alternate explanation for the title Moonlover, perhaps?) By the time the actual choral section joins in at 5:20, you’re just about out of oxygen altogether. The song’s entire third section is devoted to the comedown — two comedowns, actually: first, the slowly melting guitars, which finally disappear and give way to a somber solo piano. It is an astonishing, life-affirming, ridiculously great piece of music.
So that’s the bar for 2015; this is what everybody has to beat. It’s gonna be a good year. Listen.