If I had heard Paperback Ghosts by Comet Gain earlier I probably would have put the album on my Top 10 Albums of 2014 list.
The follow-up to 2011's excellent Howl of the Lonely Crowd, this new Comet Gain record is a consistent joy. From the understated opening of "Long After Tonite's Candles Are Blown" to the sprightly Mekons-meets-Heavenly vibe of "Behind The House She Lived In", Paperback Ghosts is a record of great tunes. If I accused that earlier release of leaning heavily on Robert Forster's half of The Go-Betweens for inspiration, Paperback Ghosts is, at its best, an album in the style of Grant McLennan's solo albums and his songs with the reunited Go-Betweens before his untimely death. The late genius' knack for writing something that sounds happy and sad and beautiful at the same time is here. When David Feck croons "If the world ends and it's okay, it's just their world..." in "Wait 'Til December" it is sung with the same sort of warm awareness that McLennan brought to his best songs. I can think of no higher compliment than that.
"The leaves fall on a wonderful, wonderful world..." is a sublime coda to this already achingly beautiful singalong tune.
On "The Last Love Letter" the addition of Clientele bassist James Hornsey to the cast of Comet Gain is shown to be a wise one. Robust and still aching, the cut errs briefly into mid-period Aztec Camera with a hint of Hefner. Wonderfully melodic, the Byrds-like guitar solo carries things forward. "(All The) Avenue Girls" uses vocals from Rachel Evans to great effect -- think "Lazy Line Painter Jane" with more kick.
From the lilt of "Your Haunted Heart" to the poetic and wonderfully titled "An Orchid Stuck Inside Her Throat", Paperback Ghosts wraps up nicely even with the somewhat harsher and trippier vibes of final track "Confessions of a Daydream" taken into account.
This could very well be the most consistent Comet Gain record so far and that means it's probably also the best. Focused, wildly melodic, and introspective (but with big hooks), the tunes here are some of the very best David Feck has ever written. I say that knowing that as with most Comet Gain albums, the next one is likely to be even better. But given the strengths of Paperback Ghosts, it's gonna be hard to top this one.
"That Lucifer Summer" imagines a world where Stereolab went back in time and became contemporary rivals to The Standells. A supremely rockin' bit of business -- those how did they do that?-backing vocals! -- the song is strange, sinister, and sublime. "To The City's Core" cranks it up further, like the song a rival gang in a musical would have sung in the Swingin' Sixties. The closer to this EP is the fantastically titled "The Obsolete Significant Dignified". The song is in more familiar territory, even if the guitars are harder than on other recent Comet Gain albums.
Paperback Ghosts is out now and Fingerprint Ritual will be out on January 19. For more details on Comet Gain, check out the Fortuna POP! website.