Led by singer/songwriter, producer and Ice Queen Records founder Joseph Lekkas, the Nashville-based indie rock act Palm Ghosts can trace its origins to when Lekkas resided in Philadelphia. After spending a number of years playing in local bands like Grammar Debate! and Hilliard, Lekkas took a lengthy hiatus from writing, recording and performing music to book shows and festivals in and around the Philadelphia area. Lekkas initially started Palm Ghosts as a solo recording project — and as a creative outlet to cope with an incapacitating bout of depression and anxiety.
During a long prototypically Northeastern winter, he recorded a batch of introspective songs that at the time, he dubbed “sun-damaged American music” that would eventually become the project’s full-length debut. After a short tour in 2013 to support the album, Lekkas packed up his belongings and relocated to Nashville, enticed by the city’s growing indie rock scene. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past handful of years, you may recall that Palm Ghosts’ third album, 2018’s Architecture was a change in sonic direction for the project with Lekkas writing material influenced by the sounds of the 80s — in particular, Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, Dead Can Dance, New Order, The Cure, and others.
Much like countless other acts across the world, Lekkas and his bandmates spent much of forced downtime of the pandemic, being as busy as humanly possible: The members of the JOVM mainstay act wrote a ton of new material. The past year or so of isolation of lockdowns and quarantines, socioeconomic and financial uncertainty and protests and demonstrations helped to fuel an immediacy to the material the band had been busily writing.
Earlier this year, the Nashville-based outfit released their fourth album Lifeboat Candidate, a fittingly dark, dystopian effort full of confusion, fear and dread, informed by the events and circumstances of last year. And while the world feels little changed since last year, the JOVM mainstay’s fifth album Lost Frequency is a much different album. Initially scheduled for release last year, Lifeboat Candidate harkens to the before, when things seemed normal — or at least less uneasy, less desperate. After a difficult 18 months of pandemic, 700,000+ deaths in the US alone, financial despair, political uncertainty and more, having some respite, some sort of escape is what most of u s feel what we urgently need. And in a very loose sense, Lost Frequency feels almost celebratory — and perhaps a bit more nostalgic, than its immediate predecessor. But the material lyrically brings confrontation to the forefront, reminding the listener that at this juncture, nothing is normal, that normalcy and the desire to return to it is destructive.
Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “Bloodlight,” a hook-driven synth pop number centered around tweeter and woofer thumping beats, shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths and a hypnotic motorik groove that sonically seems indebted to the likes of Peter Gabriel and Depeche Mode — while being a seething indictment on humanity and its treatment of Mother Earth. Album single “The Painful Truth” is another dance floor friendly single.
Featuring a throbbing and arpeggiated bass synth, shimmering melodic synths and a motorik groove paired with Lekkas’ unusually icy delivery, “The Painful Truth” brings A Flock of Seagulls to mind. But despite its upbeat sound, the song lyrically and thematically is much darker, much more bleak.
“‘The Painful Truth’ is an 80s inspired dance track with a thrumming, arpeggiated bass line and a simple, bright lead line. In contrast to its sound, the song’s lyrical content lives in a much darker and less optimistic place,” Palm Ghosts Joseph Lekkas explains. “Focusing on the flooding, wildfires and intolerable heat indexes we’ve grown accustomed to, ‘The Painful Truth is a mirror into a bleak future.”