If you’ve been following JOVM over the last couple of years, you may be familiar with Dirty Ghosts, the solo recording project of its Toronto-born, San Francisco-based singer/songwriter/guitarist and creative mastermind, Allyson Baker. Baker has had a lengthy music career, that stretches back to her teens, as she was a member of several Toronto area punk and hardcore bands. By the early 2000s, Baker had relocated to San Francisco where she was a member of Parchman Farm, a sludgy, grimy blues-based project that received some attention locally and regionally.
Initially, Dirty Ghosts began as a solo, semi-side project featuring Baker’s impressive guitar work and sneering vocals and her then-husband Aesop Rock’s drum and beat loops. The project’s full-length debut effort, Metal Moon was released in 2012 to critical praise for a sound that effortlessly meshed punk rock, electronica, hip-hop and the blues with a brash, self-assured fashion.
2015 will be a very busy year for Baker as she released the Cataract EP late last month and her sophomore effort, Let It Pretend is slated for an October release through Last Gang Records. And both the Cataract EP and Let It Pretend were informed by a number of difficult transitions — between the release of Metal Moon and the initial writing and demo sessions for Pretend, Baker’s marriage with Aesop Rock had broken up and her carefully assembled live band featuring featuring bassist Erin McDermott, best known as a member of AC/DShe and Deadly Weapons had split up. As a result, the album thematically focuses on deeply adult themes — isolation, uncertainty, clouded perceptions, the endless transitions of one’s life and so on.
With the assistance of Tony Sevener (drums), Baker admits that the new material is much more pop focused. And with the album’s first single “Cataract,” there’s a subtle yet decided change in approach and sound as the material has sharper, more forceful hooks. Layers of slashing, angular guitar chords paired with thundering drumming pushes the material more towards the post-punk/dance punk sound of Gang of Four than ever before — and yet, the material retains a brash, take names and kick ass self-assuredness while pointing at the insecurities and uncertainties that we all have to face at various points in our lives.
The recently released official video draws heavily from 80s video tropes and motifs — in particular, this particular video reminds me of the surreal and demented logic of many of DEVO‘s videos — in particular, think of “Whip It” — but with a faded and worn out VHS feel.