Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees – fin(n)

 Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees – fin(n)

Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees – fin(n) – Album Review

Talk about a way to get people interested!  The way this record starts out with “Gunfight In Your Mind (2023 Album Mix)” is something else y’all, I tell ya.  I was beyond impressed with what could almost be described as a purposely excessive & dramatic lead vocal performance on this very first cut…it’s the kind of approach that gets noticed, and I think we’ll honestly all feel the same way about that.  From that very first line of the vocals, I knew that I was gonna be hooked on the kind of creativity this band has – and hearing them hit the warm glow of their chorus hooks only confirmed what I was thinking.  This first track reveals the remarkable versatility and creativity you’ll find in Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees right off the bat, and believe me when I tell ya, these are defining characteristics of the band that continually get stronger as you attune yourself to the wild degree of art on display in what they create.  I dig the intensity and commitment you’ll find in this opening track though…this is what it sounds like when you got ALL-IN and you’re unafraid of how unique the material really is at its core.  Some folks will dig it, some won’t – that’s the nature of ALL music when it comes right down to it…the key is getting past that concept, and doing what you love to do without fear or feeling like you have to compromise for the lowest common denominators.  Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees instantly sound fearless on this record, and for as flexible as their sound will prove to be, they clearly don’t compromise their vision to simply please the masses out there…this opening track reveals an artistic integrity to their music I wish everyone had.

While “Gunfight In Your Mind” seems to pick up where the band had left off back when its original version was released in 2021, and has a new video to support it online already – the brand-new lead-single they’ve been putting out there in advance of the release of fin(n) on Bandcamp during the ol’ pre-order stage, is actually the second cut called “The Purple Cactus.”  Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees seem to generate genuine interest naturally…like it just comes inherently to them.  I’d be the first to admit that there’s something about the vocals that is immaculately unique to this band, and very much their own thing on a stylistic level…a signature sound of their own, if you will.  Do I expect everyone out there to ‘get it’ and what this band is doing?  Heck no!  I wish the world was that cool when it comes to how it absorbs and receives art, but typically speaking, bands like Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees have the kind of sound & vibe that challenges convention, which in turn usually challenges the masses in many ways as well.  I wouldn’t change this band for the world y’all…I love what I hear in “The Purple Cactus” – they’re nearly like a version of Cracker from the mid-90s, and that is indeed workin’ for me & my ears.  Listen to the…what is that…violin?  Cello?  Whatever the heck it is, I’m LOVING how it adds to this song.  This band could write circles around me!  As I listened to this record throughout the week, I continually came back to the lyricism and lead-vocals as the main reasons to return, at least for myself personally.  Hopefully I’m not alone in that…in my heart of hearts, we’d all be entirely supportive of the straight-up brilliant creativity, effort, interest, and passion you’ll hear in this lineup of songs.  “The Purple Cactus” is a wonderful example of the oddity this band IS, but also how it makes them a diamond in the rough.

“Pilot To Bombardier” is another exceptional glimpse at the unique perspective, poetic design, and different points of view they present through their music.  Very much in the vein of mid 90s projects like Pavement, or nearly like something you’d hear in one of my favorite independent bands called School Friends as of late…but no matter what you think Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees might remind you of, can we simply all agree that these songs are undeniable ART when it comes right down to it?  Please?  To me, this is the kind of writing that everyone should be digging right into.  A conversation between a “Pilot To Bombardier?”  Amazing!  What a great freakin’ idea!  They might be hurtling through the skies to go deliver the payload and some real bad news to whomever might be below, you end up in this stunningly inventive conversation from “Pilot To Bombardier” that has them discussing everything from the wife and kids, all the way to how long they’ve been doin’ their jobs for, just like you would on the first day of any ol’ regular job.  I love the spot in this song as they hit the clouds heading into the third minute as Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees end up in a real dreamy spot with this third song that audibly pairs perfectly with the lyricism and the beautiful satisfaction of a job well done.  This is creativity at its finest y’all, and this track would go on to become one of my own absolute favorites from this record.

As a person that actually IS hairy enough to be mistaken as a “Sasquatch In Your Super 8” and has been looked at as the missing link all my life…what can I say – I love the title of this fourth tune.  I love the first minute of this tune or so, and the distance it has in the way it’s recorded…like, we all sound so far away from the scene…it’s quite cool.  About ninety seconds in, we zoom straight into an upbeat vibe that is bright, bold, and colorful…great bass-lines, amazing backing vocals supporting the lead in this track too – and I’d posit a theory that it’s actually the energy of the band overall that really becomes the main hook of “Sasquatch In Your Super 8.”  We’re basically talking about a sound that you can hear possesses the band and gets them surging forward…too Punk to be Pop, too Pop to be Punk…and it works brilliantly.  I’m not gonna be the guy to tell ya that I loved this song quite as much as I probably did the initial three tracks that started out fin(n)…but it’s actually pretty close.  I’m no more immune than you are…hearing this band really go after it all with everything they’ve got is quite the enticing aspect of their music.  You’ll find me doing nothing but encouraging Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees when it comes right down to it – they’ve earned themselves at least one rabid new fan in me with this album, and I’m positive that I won’t be alone.  In fact, I’ll probably head straight outta this review and instantly recommend this band to about five of my closest friends that I know enjoy the strange side of music just as much as I do.  “Sasquatch In Your Super 8” is actually a bit closer to normal than you might even argue the first three tracks are, yet like the distance you’ll find at the start & end of this track, it’s still miles and miles away from anything typical.  There’s actually quite a noticeable throwback vibe in “Sasquatch In Your Super 8” that connects it from music’s past to present perfectly…I might like the opening three cuts a bit more due to the spectacular degree of art they put out, but I’d expect a whole lotta folks to dig this song too.

“Carmel And Carol” takes them both further into their artistic indie music style, and also reveals how the band at-large is authentically ambitious, even in their mellower moments.  Like…”Carmel And Carol” is heading towards the seven-minute mark by the time it’s all over…and they’ll flex many naturally appealing moments of melody along the way, in addition to others that delve into high aspects of contrast that would be different than most ears are used to.  Elements like the keyboards play a strong role here…the drums are magnificent too…and what is that in the distance – a trumpet?  Somewhere around the fourth minute, you’ll hear an extra layer or two that could be keys, or could be brass…whatever it is, it’s a genius addition.  The guitar is equally crucial to this track as well, as are the samples that eventually creep into the mix too…there’s an album’s worth of uniqueness in this one tune alone, and I am HERE FOR IT folks.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that “Carmel And Carol” probably pushes this band beyond what many out there would potentially stick with…there are clashing harmonies that will prove to be an obstacle, the public resists any song over three minutes in length, and there’s a significant amount of art at the heart of a track like this one…and while that might all prove to be more difficult for the average everyday listener out there, those that appreciate something different in the music they listen to are truly gonna love what Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees put onto this record.  The use of poetry in this band is STAGGERING y’all…”Carmel And Carol” is another stunning example of how effective they are with their lyricism…I cannot stress enough how their writing is absolutely second to none, and for those of you out there that love creativity & art, it’s intoxicating.  They take many chances with the sound of a song like “Carmel And Carol,” at least in the vocals – the music itself is nothing short of sensational, inviting, dreamy, and welcoming to listen to at every turn.

All that good stuff being said, it is very close to art for art’s sake…and that’s a fine line to walk while hoping people can keep up with ya.  I listen to “Archaeopteryx” and I can easily recognize the challenges a song like this will have in terms of reaching people…beyond the sound, right to the title itself.  There’s no doubt that a band like Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees think about music on a different level than most ever would, and I completely appreciate that.  Heck – even I had to look up what an “Archaeopteryx” was, which is apparently a “primitive crow-sized bird” with “reptilian characteristics” according to what I’ve read online.  And it’s right about here where I remind ya that we’ve all gotta write about something, so why NOT an “Archaeopteryx,” am I right?  What are YOU writing about?  Chicks and cars?  No thanks!  I’ll take a song based on an “Archaeopteryx” any day of the week compared to anything I’ve already heard about a million times in music, without question.  I mean…LOOK at that magnificent word on paper alone will ya?  Now imagine that same incredible word becomes a HOOK somehow, even though you probably have no idea how to pronounce “Archaeopteryx” yourself!  And therein lies some more of the magic you’ll find in this band dear readers, dear friends…you can’t beat creativity like this band has.  To look at this song on paper, I’d tell ya it’d never work…and to hear it, obviously it clearly does, 100%.

They’re trippin’ right out with their concept of “Geronimo At The 1904 World’s Fair” – again, you’re really not gonna hear too much out there like what this band is creating when it comes to the content overall, especially in their lyricism, which is absolutely stunningly brilliant.  Even though a track like “Geronimo At The 1904 World’s Fair” sounds like it is adhering much more closely to a Blues-Rock standard, the theme and concept at its core is so remarkably different that it can’t help but make you smile.  Which is really what gets me excited about a track like this one…believe me, I recognize the looseness and liberties they’re taking with the vocals and tones…but at the same time, the idea of the historical figure of Geronimo out there walking around the World’s Fair, wondering what the heck is going on.  Like, “what was Geronimo thinking when he saw the educated horse?”  If you’re anything like me, you’ve been wondering exactly the same thing as what Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees will ask directly in this song too.  Playing like a busted piano-tune from the dawn of music’s history as it opens up, then heading into a twisted take on the kind of vibe you’d find at the Golden Age shortly after – I’m not gonna be the guy to tell ya they’re reinventing the wheel when it comes to the sound itself, but I am gonna be the dude that’ll tell you you’ll never find concepts in the lyricism like you’ll find on fin(n) on any other record, ever.  The intelligence, art, and creativity on display throughout this entire set-list is a MASSIVE hook of its own that should never be overlooked…even on a track like “Geronimo At The 1904 World’s Fair” that seems more familiar to us, at its core lies something different than you’ve ever heard.

“A Tramp And Fugitive Look At Travel Brochures” is a perfect example of why I’d compare this band to Pavement and not too many others out there…this is freakin’ Alt-Indie brilliance, with high degrees of true poetry mixed with magical moments of melody you couldn’t script out if you tried.  There’s a lot of what Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees that sound like they saunter straight into the happiest of accidents by going where the music takes them, yet it also happens so often that you can’t help but have to assume they’re also a heck of a lot more organized than it often sounds like or appears.  The looseness is part of the charm essentially; if you polished them up too much, you wouldn’t get half of the Indie spirit that makes this music connect so strongly.  I’d put “A Tramp And Fugitive Look At Travel Brochures” right up there with my favorites on this record without a doubt.  That’s not even me saying that every second of this track is going to connect with YOU…I wish that was the case, but I don’t actually think that what the Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees create is going to resonate with everyone like it does with me.  Anyhow – I think from the very first line of the vocals, you’ll either get it and feel like I do about “A Tramp And Fugitive Look At Travel Brochures,” or ya won’t – but you’ll know right away, without a doubt.  In my personal opinion, it’s extremely tough to know what would make for the right single to put out to be the gateway into a record as different and creative as this one is…but I’d be taking a good long look at this one here to fill that role.  There are obstacles and barriers between a song like “A Tramp And Fugitive Look At Travel Brochures” reaching some folks for sure, but what does connect, will connect to us all.

“Never Fall On Your Face” is not only sound advice, it’s also further proof of how this band is willing to do things differently, completely on purpose.  Like, when you hear the first verse, you’ll probably think the melody is either warped, or off in the tone it’s looking for – and you’re probably very right about that…I just don’t at all think that Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees remotely care about that…it’s not the priority to be bang-on when it comes to tone, so much as it is crucial for them to hit the style of sound that they’re aiming for, which they seem to do, every time.  So in terms of what we hear, it can often be quite varied in that regard, especially in the context of the sound of their vocals in the lead…but I’ll be damned if it ain’t so magnificently interesting, different, and smartly crafted, that it’s not remarkably compelling y’all.  Even the harmonies of “Never Fall On Your Face” shows the band taking extreme chances with what the court of public opinion will accept tonally…but there’s something so extraordinary about Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees that I feel like they’ve earned the right to your attention.  I’d be the first to tell ya that “Never Fall On Your Face” is a strange cut on what’s already been a strange album…Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees are the exception, not the rule when it comes to the art of making music, you feel me?  That being said, as different as this tune may appear, it’s still a cohesive enough fit.

Where things become more complex, is when you’ve got two tracks back-to-back that are going to challenge listeners much more than they’d normally find themselves comfortable with, which is what you’ll find the combination of “Never Fall On Your Face” and “Class Dismissed” becomes.  I’m much more on the fence about the latter track myself…it’s not really like it’s that much more of a stylistic stretch in comparison to what we’ve heard so far…that’s still in-line with the rest of the material, albeit the most crooked of lines you’ve ever tried to follow from point-A to point-B.  I’d reckon it’s more the direction of the sound itself…”Class Dismissed” is a degree or two more aggressive than the rest of the songs in terms of how it comes across to us on this side of the speakers…to the point where it almost has me wondering about why they felt it was so necessary to include on this particular record.  This is probably where I’d be looking for a bit more objectivity from Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees…as in, just because a song got recorded, or at the same time as the rest in a set-list, doesn’t always make it belong to an album, you follow me?  I felt like “Class Dismissed” wasn’t at all any kind of track or style they shouldn’t be just as confident in pursuing, but it does feel like it doesn’t quite fit into this particular set.

They finish this gloriously creative album by heading back into mellower terrain with “Overheard At The Exit Interview” – which is another awe-inspiring idea to have decided to write about.  I love the way the backing vocals add to this song…I love the gentleness you’ll find in this tune…the smoothness of the bass-lines…the dreamy way the lead guitar chimes in and complements the rhythm.  As for the main vocals, good gravyboat lighthouse y’all…when Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees hit the magic of melody, it’s something that every single one of us can hear universally, even as odd as they tend to appear.  By the time you’ve reached “Overheard At The Exit Interview,” you should be plenty accustomed to the naturally bizarre vibe they create, if not as completely addicted to it as I am.  The words are always so undeniably fascinating in every single song – but to be truthful with ya, I think that without the lead vocals coming out as stylistically unique as they do in pairing with their lyrics, all might have been lost.  So believe me when I tell ya, I’ll absolutely take what seems like a raw note or two along the way if I can get these freakishly amazing moments of melody & creativity you’ll find on this album that I don’t think could have been created otherwise.  I loved this track right from the get-go with the distance of the music and the voices we hear quietly set in the background.  Forty-seconds in, you get that wonderful hit of the lead vocals snapping this whole song into place, and you float right along with “Overheard At The Exit Interview” from there on.  Some tracks out there just feel like they don’t provide any resistance to our ears, even when they’re as new or unique as this record has so thoroughly proven to be – and that’s one of the best parts about this final cut…you simply wanna go along with it, wherever it’s going.  I couldn’t stop listening to fin(n) throughout this past week or so, and I’ve got no plans to stop anytime soon either…the creativity, art, vision, and skill combined here is nothing short of extraordinary y’all, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that this record is going to be one of the most interesting you’ll hear this year.  It’s perfectly imperfect in that wonderful Alt-Indie way, and I’m completely proudly & hopelessly addicted to it…you just don’t stumble across an album like this every day – I’m thankful for this record.

Find out more about Smoky Ghosts Of Big Trees at their official page at Facebook here:

Find out what we do & how we do it at sleepingbagstudios, and be the next up on our pages by clicking here!


"I’m passionate about what I do, and just as passionate about what YOU do. Together, we can get your music into the hands of the people that should have it. Let’s create something incredible."

Send this to a friend