[sic] Magazine

Crooked Ghost – Skeleton House

“Lonely heart
Empty bed
Sweet lullabies for the dead”

Crooked Ghost’s Skeleton House doesn’t so much begin as emerge, like a lone rider through swirls of billowing mist. I’m brought to mind of the epic opening to terrific Netflix series Godless. It won’t be the last existential western association here.

For those in need of a signpost along this particular trail, I’d place Crooked Ghost as dreampop with a tinge of cowpunk and surf – think Chris Isaak, or a masculine Mazzy Star. They cite post punk and I’ve seen Echo And The Bunnymen listed in various dispatches but I feel that The Gun Club are more credible forefathers. Nick Cave would be another touchstone. I especially love Ray Clark’s vocal. The ‘ooh’s and ‘ah’s make this record for me, elevating his singing from good to great. Lyrically too he is just suggestive enough to let the listener imagine their own Southern Gothic scenarios rather than simply narrating something rigid.

Skeleton House is the Asheville, NC bands second full length. I missed out on their debut but this one feels like a real statement of intent – a cohesive whole, rather than a collection of songs beneath one banner. I was hugely impressed by the single ‘Sleepwalker’ (included here and in our end of year Contributing Artists feature) and sought out the entire record for review. If you enjoy ‘Sleepwalker’ too you will probably also appreciate the long player as it’s a microcosm for the full length.

“Broken hearts
Torn out pages
Whoa, whoooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
Sad songs echo through the ages

Urgent percussion picks up the reigns and drives this Wagontrain forward at a gallop but it’s a simple little thing like those whoa’s which make me weak at the knee. Though Skeleton House album crystalises on ‘Sleepwalker’ there are still terrific tracks to follow. ‘Only Nightmares’ is a particular standout.

“My dreams they haunt me
My dear
Dark things”

The rest of the album consolidates. ‘Witch Heart’ has an early Afghan Whigs feel. (Congregation era) ‘Black Cat’ slows things down to a heat haze shimmer while ‘Roadkill’ has hints of Madrugada.

Skeleton House closes with its epic title track. Despite Crooked Ghosts clear gift for worldbuilding there’s also the feeling that this record will never date. Like the mythology of the Western, Skeleton House exists out of time. It already feels like a classic. Sepias may fade to grey but the haunting themes of Skeleton House remain eternal.

Sad songs echo through the ages, indeed.


Crooked Ghost pick their albums of 2018