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Mostly Ghostly

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Album Review

State Bird are Coby Hartzler and Jared Riblet, a duo from Dover, OH, halfway between Akron and nowhere. Their geographic location might explain the glorious mess that the band presents on Mostly Ghostly. The album sounds like a late-night carnival populated by folkies, rockers, marching bands, cowboy, Indians, homeless schizophrenics, gospel choirs, and assorted kids off their meds. The music is by turns acoustic, electric, horn-driven, ukulele-dappled, and dripping with musical references that include the Who, Lawrence Welk, Johnny Cash, the Holy Modal Rounders, Jonathan Richman, the get the picture. As rhythms shift in unexpected places, out-of-tune choruses pop up and vanish, and the arrangements drop seemingly random bits of music and lyric in your lap, 50 years of pop tunes tumble through the mix. While the band has to be congratulated for blending — and bending — this many genres, you can't help but thinking that the presentation is some kind of prank. Several tracks are a bit more straightforward, although they still are marked by the band's curious inability to stay on point for more than a minute at a time. "A Voice as Old as Fire" almost sounds like the acoustic version of a '50s pop tune, save for the oddly shifting drum rhythms. Then it moves into a Beatlesque circus march, a brief Motown interlude, and then back to the peculiar marching band tempo. "Ghost King, Pt. 1" brings to mind a cowboy polka, then shifts into a dizzying psychedelic waltz before ending with voice, handclaps, and a single acoustic guitar. "What's All the Racket in Our Haunted Attic" lays down a bunch of random shouting over a rhythm that's somewhere between a second-line stomp and a samba, while "I Saw the Light" is based on an old hymn that starts with a single voice and ukulele, then drops in some swooping bass guitar, random synthesizer noise, mariachi horns, and a galloping garage band beat. As charming as individual tunes are, there's an overall feeling of cleverness for its own sake that leaves one slightly dazed and bewildered. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Customer Reviews


top drawer on this album. hauntingly beautiful music that has a touch of native american influence. what many artists lack in their music is fun, which this band perfectly implements.


I abso-freaking-lutely love this album. The lyrics are amazing and, at times, inspiring. I am now taking all my things and giving them away. Thank you, State Bird, for many great listens!


Good to see the local boys are blowing up. This album is amazing, you guys are legit.


Formed: Ohio

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

With their penchant for all things frontier (exhibited in their predilection for wearing faux Native American face paint), State Bird followed in the footsteps of other quirky, "themed" indie acts like Sufjan Stevens, whose interest in marching bands and the 50 states immediately comes to mind, as well as so-called "freak folk" acts like Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. State Bird are essentially the songwriting project of Coby Hartzler and Jared Riblet, who are joined by a rotating cast of supporting...
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