Like Franz Ferdinand’s debut, Ghosty’s first full-length album opens with a song called “Jacqueline.” This is, thankfully, where the comparison stops. With every band seemingly trying to ride on the coattails of a successful rags to riches, indie to major musical act, one can grow weary of listening to `new’ music. Lucky for us, Lawrence, Kansas is not the hotbed for art-rock aping. Instead, like Midwestern bands such as those from Saddle Creek and the Flaming Lips, Ghosty, who hails from Lawrence, has put out EP after EP with their own style and agenda, progressing in their own time, never trying to become the next post-punk poster boys for the cover of AP.
Beginning as merely drums and guitar back in 1999, Ghosty has struggled to keep extra members. Since that time, the band has grown to a five piece and has finally released their full-length debut, Grow Up or Sleep In. Since the recording of the album and now, however, Ghosty has replaced one of the original two, that being drummer Richard Gintowt. As such, the album becomes a representation of a past version of Ghosty. Being from Lawrence does have its advantages. For one, as previously mentioned, one gets to develop at his own pace. That can backfire in that no one might actually get to hear you. Mike Mogis did hear Ghosty and engineered their last EP, Three Pop Songs. After a subsequent tour with Saddle Creek band Son, Ambulance, Ghosty began to get some notice. The band planned to employ Mogis’ talents again for the album, but he seemed to have his hands full. Luckily, Ghosty managed to snag up and comer Trent Bell who has worked with the Old 97’s, the Flaming Lips and Aqueduct.
The first five songs on Grow Up or Sleep In include two songs that are repeated from the last EP, “Big Surrender” and “Henry Greene.” Each song is delicately arranged, frontman Andrew Connor’s voice flitting along each passage like a slightly more emotional Stephen Malkmus. The album finally found its voice and footing, for me, by the sixth song, “High On Life.” Its changing time signatures, drum rolls, sweet falsetto and circus-y keyboard made for a song that seemed a combination of the Flaming Lips and Chicago. “Vandalism” gets even better. “Clouds Solve It” is the poppy and jangly single and it makes two appearances on the record, once in its original form, and once with guest Wayne Coyne who recruited Ghosty to help out with one of the Lips’ singles and ended up liking their music so much, he insisted he be allowed to contribute.
Various songs in the second half of the album change up speeds, time signatures, and melodies as often as Paris Hilton changes outfits or boyfriends. Comparisons to Pavement are inevitable and accurate, with similar roots rock riffs lifted from Jerry Garcia or Duane Allman. “Hey! Somebody” is one of the few differences, sounding a little more like alt-country / Beach Boys blends such as Beulah. It’s one of the great songs from the record and one I would add to a mix compilation. Grow Up or Sleep In isn’t going to make people stop in their tracks like Arcade Fire or Bloc Party might, but what they will do is perk up listener’s ears to good Midwestern music.