By Hayley Scott
State Broadcasters follow up their 2009 debut The Ship and the Iceberg with the equally enchanting Ghosts We Must Carry, in which the Glasgow based 6-piece exhibit their ability to purvey heart-warming, melancholic folk-pop music. The album’s arrival is aptly in time for a seasonal shift. You can imagine Ghosts We Must Carry suitably sound-tracking brisk, cold mornings when the air smells autumnal and the sun shines hazily as you traipse your way through a myriad of fallen leaves.
That’s not to say that Ghosts We Must Carry’s allure isn’t year-round appealing, however, and the band’s exertion for making something to really be proud of transpires through the quality of sounds, song-writing and overall production of the record. What stands out most about Ghosts We Must Carry is the beautifully arranged, subtle orchestration that accentuates the heavy-hearted, wistful tone of the album. While State Broadcasters’ forte lies within depicting heart-wrenching soliloquies of sadness and despair, it is the dreamy nostalgia and Caledonian charm, axiomatic in their vocals, that prevents them from ever sounding overly sombre.
The opener ‘The Only Way Home’ has an almost funereal pace that is carried by Graeme Black’s warm, woeful vocals. The gentle instrumentation of languid guitar playing and prevailing strings build up to an ethereal crescendo and slows back down again to give the track a rousing, monumental finish. The tone and pace elevates with ‘Trespassers’, a contrast to the opener, in which State Broadcasters provide a whimsical journey into a world of perfect folk-pop.
‘Trespassers’ also contains a compatible combination of Graeme and Gill’s euphonious vocals that compliment one another flawlessly; meanwhile a parade of piano, plucked harp, sleepy guitar and fanciful strings converge in the background. As Graeme sentimentally croons “I try to imagine a landscape without you”, it’s hard to dismiss the sincere heart-felt qualities of the song, provoking a nostalgic response to a subject of which is easily relatable to any one who has ever loved and lost, making it a stand-out track from the album. ‘Kittiwake’ is a continuation of this shift in tempo, while the remainder of the album is a slow-paced, delicately fey affair that maintains a lyrical theme of portraying the woes that come with “the burdens we carry with us as we get older, the things we’ve done or had done to us that still hurt – actions and memories that occasionally haunt us”.
The crackling, pre-digital recording is akin to the authentic sounds that radiate from old record players. It is a noticeably charming attribute of the record that is particularly evident on ‘Takeshi’, in which vocal duties are assigned to both Graeme and Gill as their congruent tones assist a pensive, lovelorn story that occasionally merge against a backdrop of welcome inclusions of sumptuous brass, acoustic guitar and resplendent strings.
The most surprising development is perhaps the wonderfully executed cover of Billy Bragg’s ‘The Only One’, in which Gill’s dulcet vocals dominate the song. Additionally, the diverse array of instruments is what makes Ghosts We Must Carry stand out as a majestic effort. From cello and accordion to piano and harp, there’s a never-ending abundance of ear-gratifying pleasantries.
It can’t be easy for folk orientated Scottish bands to be so frequently compared to Belle and Sebastian et el while holding their own, but with Ghosts We Must Carry State Broadcasters accomplish just that. In a city of which its musical heritage is continually referred to for its distinctive repertoire of folk, twee and indie bands, State Broadcasters have the potential to establish a place amongst the Glaswegian greats.