It’s fitting enough to suggest that the longstanding idea of ‘less is more’ stands tall with a band so chucklingly named as such as Tarantulahawk. So maybe the name throws you off a little bit, but let me reassure you that the band’s mix of stripped, raw instrumentals and baring, vulnerable vocals shouldn’t if you’re a fan of music in the vein of say Bright Eyes or other sadness-provoking, instrumentally limited projects. To be a bit more blunt, Tarantulahawk’s audience is a bit narrow, but their aim is sharp enough that it’ll be tough to deny their charm even in the face of skepticism.
These four tracks – three originals and an Elliot Smith cover assembled under the flag of Along With Ghosts – swirl pretty well in the face of somewhat lacking production and often off-kilter songwriting. “Life Isn’t Boring” nails the band’s identity to a wall with moving strums and almost haunting melodic lines, hitting just the right amount without sounding overly trite in the process. Tarantulahawk’s songwriting is very deliberate though, moving methodically through guitar strums and sparse drumming to create something that is stirring and unfamiliar – a quite pleasant but emotionally necessary reflection of the vocal approach on these songs.
“Andrea” is a little more poppy, but in what it gains with almost instant likability, it doesn’t lose the vulnerable nature of the formula. In fact, a pop-punk kid like myself can quite dig the upbeat second verse of this track as it picks up steam. The only downside is that the band’s dirge into poppier flavors leaves the structure and flow a bit weakened as they careen into different sections of textually different approaches. “Leech” does the band a bit more justice though, as the drumming presence and less orchestrated strumming again play into a much more memorable semi-pop number. “Speed Trials”, the Smith cover already alluded to, translates the original perhaps well enough without destroying or re-inventing it – a welcome idea considering the band takes Smith’s sound in some way, shape or form throughout much of this EP.
Along With Ghosts isn’t a knockout or home-run for Tarantulahawk, but don’t take that statement too negatively – it’s good enough to make it worth spinning through for anyone looking for something a little folksy, emotional or kind of minimal in their headphones.