Many may not remember the band Longwave, the band that bubbled just beneath the breakthrough success of bands such as Kings of Leon and The Strokes. Working hard for years, differentiating themselves from their contemporaries, they sort of disappeared. Yet, all along, they continued to create vibrant music with creative guitar work. Why does this matter? Well, at the heart of Longwave is Steve Schiltz, the core songwriter for Hurricane Bells. He’s been collecting demos and working on fleshing out the first full-length under the new moniker; here we have the story behind Tonight is the Ghost.
One of the things you’ll enjoy the most is how soft Schiltz’s vocals are throughout his recordings, with old band and new. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Albert Hammond Jr., but you can rest assured he has got much more range than the aforementioned character. It’s this pleasant delivery that makes Schiltz the perfect person to go into the singer/songwriter sphere of things.
Alas, the music isn’t too far off from where you usually find him. “This is a Test” reminds you immediately, for those that are familiar, with Longwave, albeit a less grand version. You can even tell in the harmonics of the guitar as they stretch out into the atmosphere where he’s coming from, but you can’t blame a guy for relying upon what he knows best. Such are the opening moments of Tonight is the Ghost; he doesn’t clearly step out of the shadows of his own career.
Yet as the record progresses, you can find yourself seeing the variance in the craft of writing that Schiltz must have endured when recording this album. “Tonight I’m Going to be Like a Shooting Star” is the first moment when he doesn’t seem to completely revolve around his writing of the past. It’s a more direct approach to writing, as simple as it gets for this chap. And in such a fashion, you won’t find yourself surprised when that slide guitar comes around the bend in “Freezing Rain,” though this has a different effect than the country-fied version used with so many other band across the globe. And in this moment, you realize why you really like Steve’s tunes.
The great thing about both Hurricane Bells and Longwave is that you can always clearly hear the vocals. In a world coated with lo-fi tendencies and indecipherable lyrics, it’s rare to find a singer who puts it out there so plainly for the listener. Subject matter is personal, and yet ultimately relatable, which allows for that connection between musician and audience, something lacking in a lot of modern musical movements.
As you would expect, the album is generally successful, though not too far off from where you find Steve in his day job. Luckily, I like Longwave a whole lot, and so any new tune from the great Steve Schiltz never hurts these ears. For fans like me, and music fans looking for something a little more pure, and a lot less contrived, you’ll find joy in Hurricane Bells’ Tonight is the Ghost.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/04-Tonight-Im-Going-To-Be-Like-A-Shooting-1.mp3]
Download: Hurricane Bells – Tonight I’m Going To Be Like A Shooting Star [MP3]