Picture early Yellowcard: “Ocean Avenue” and “Way Away.” My fellow ‘90s kids know the picture well–the pop-punk sound infused with a violin, which they used as if it was another electric guitar. Exohxo’s latest EP The Ghost is Clear is along a similar violin-heavy pop-punk vein, yet contains a higher level of maturity. The EP’s sound is like Yellowcard all grown up (similar to when Rugrats became “All Grown Up,” but with fewer disappointments).
Seattle-based chamber rock band Exohxo’s The Ghost is Clear collects six diverse tracks that provide different combinations of chamber pop and pop-punk, with a little bit of jazz and bluegrass flavor thrown in. The Ghost is Clear will feel nostalgic at times and in the very same track feel completely new and unique.
Throughout the album, Exohxo uses the violin to accomplish an array of sounds. The combination of the violin, driving and jazzy organ makes opener “Past Lives” a feel-good summer song. Here, Exohxo uses the violin much like early Yellowcard did, in a fairly punk rock kind of way, driving the song. In “Parting Shots,” the violin adds theatrics to the track; in “Same As Always,” the violin becomes a fiddle and surprisingly takes on some bluegrass flavor. And in “You Can’t Know,” the introduction of the violin throws off the rock vibe and halfway through takes over the song by adding much more of a chamber orchestra feel to the track.
The vocals found in The Ghost is Clear also combine two worlds: the pop-punk and the theatrical. In tracks like “Trains That Look Like Towns,” the vocal aspect of the song sounds like it could come right out of a musical–picture the voice of fun.’s lead singer Nate Ruess. Yet in other songs, the vocals sound more like they came off of a pop-punk album–slightly emotional and crisp, so you can hear every sardonically hopeful lyric (“Past Lives,” “Parting Shots”). In the second verse of “Parting Shots,” the introduction of a second vocalist adds harmonization that sounds distinctly pop-punk.
Exohxo’s The Ghost is Clear is a mashup of musical worlds. The unique combination of typical rock instruments with the violin and organ spice up each track in a different way. By combining instrumental diversity with theatrical pop-punk vocals and introspective yet hopeful lyrics, The Ghost is Clear is a remarkable adventure you won’t want to miss. —Krisann Janowitz