Ghost Buffalo – The Magician

Ghost Buffalo
The Magician

The Magician gathers aftershocks of late 90’s alternative rock, when bands as disparate as Quicksand, Hum, and Deftones shared thunderous, ringing chords and a penchant for emotive vocals. That ominous rumble returns here as Ghost Buffalo moves their second release away from alt-country towards the sinister folds of post-hardcore. But the album’s strengths are matched its by flaws.

Ghost Buffalo successfully blends dark dream pop with hardcore. And Marie Litton’s sensually vacant croon is a great foil for the dense low end of the guitar and bass. But Litton can’t nail her delivery. To be fair, vocalists of the aforementioned bands couldn’t, either.

To Ghost Buffalo’s credit, these tracks never wear out their welcome. Yet, the album as a whole is repetitive and fails to show the band’s versatility. And while the album’s production is passable, the drums never really hit, the guitars never punch. These songs rely on dynamics, pairing soft verses with heavy choruses weighted with distortion.

“Narcissus” opens with momentum, introducing Litton’s accessible vocal tone and lyrics while spreading the faded black atmosphere that cloaks the entire album. A good starter. “The Latest Wonder”, also solid, is a prime example of The Magician‘s simple song structures.

Ghost Buffalo’s alt-country affections surface sneakily on track 3, “Choke”. “Gold Disease” moves with a calibrated pop appeal, and demonstrates guitarist Matt Bellinger’s penchant for simple and effective guitar leads. Vocals seek attention on “Fire Walk With Me”, as Litton traces the heart’s torn, manipulated edges: “Take all he wants from you / It’s effortless because you want him to”.

Litton’s lyrical talents shine again in “Burnt Dreams”, as she stirs, “Baby, you’re easy to hate / It’s so sad ’cause you feel the same / How far should we go? / Let’s take our time and burn out slow”. This is one of the album’s brightest spots. “Just a Thought” is instrumental, probably better suited to live performance than recordings. And the album’s title track is the closer; “The Magician” starts off low-key, slipping in more of that alt-country influence.

The Magician is a toss up. Ghost Buffalo honor their 90’s influences. That’s good. And while Litton struggles, the overall aesthetic of her breathy tone against sinister distortion works. The sound is dark, but not draining.

Few relish turn of the century hard rock, but if you want a reminder of what was good back then, then listen to the flawed sonic appeal of The Magician.