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Album Review

On Ghosts, its debut for Interscope, Chicago's Sleeping at Last nestles its earnest little songs into a lush fold of production wizardry. It's not a bad choice. The trio has an obvious admiration for the atmospherics of Unforgettable Fire-era U2, and Ryan O'Neal's quivering vocals mesh well with the sheets of luxurious reverb and yearning strings that haunt the corners of Ghosts. It's this ambitious board work that takes tracks like "Say" and "Currents" to a dreamland far beyond the yearning yet straightforward modern rock of a group like Lifehouse. Like that band, Sleeping at Last came out of the alternative CCM movement, and this is apparent in lyrics that dwell on spiritual and faith issues. "God will you help us understand the meaning of it all?" O'Neal sings on the piano-driven title track. It's a plea, for sure. But the song's insular Radiohead austerity tinges O'Neal's prayer with something darker. After an overture, it ends in a cracked whisper. "Like a moth to the flames/We become helpless." But as questioning of galactic forces as Sleeping at Last can be, it's also a band full of limpid, bright-eyed hope. Sunlight bursts through the moody clouds in the form of "Skeleton of Something More"'s irresistible chorus melody, while the shimmering dream pop of "Brightly" and "Night Must End" suggests the rakish, sometimes raucous sound of young U.K. combos like Muse or JJ72. After all, O'Neal, his drumming brother Chad O'Neal, and bassist pal Dan Perdue are young guys, too. They're allowed to dress up their hopes, confusion, and questioning anger with sumptuous soundscapes, and invite listeners into the dream world their band name suggests. Ghosts could have easily become yet another album bleeding emo-inflected tears for the torturous souls of its creators. Instead, it's a life-size star map flecked with glimmering jewels of melody and the wondering promise of youth.


Formed: 1999 in Wheaton, IL

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Based out of suburban Chicago, emo-inflected alt-rockers Sleeping At Last formed in 1999 around the talents of guitarist/vocalist Ryan O'Neal, drumming sibling Chad O'Neal, and bass player Dan Perdue. The trio began to build a local following, playing wherever possible and doing the occasional support gig. After sparking the interest of Billy Corgan with their self-released full-length, Capture, the erstwhile Smashing Pumpkin aided the group in securing a record deal with Interscope, who signed the...
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Ghosts, Sleeping At Last
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