Written during pandemic-related lockdowns, Ghost Funk Orchestra’s recently released third album A New Kind of Love feels and sounds like the soundtrack from an imaginary movie — with the album’s songs easily being part of the score of a romantic drama, an action thriller or a modern twist on film noir: Spare, cascading vocals accentuate the lush instrumental arrangements composed, arranged, performed and produced by the band’s creative mastermind Seth Applebaum and a talented cast of collaborators and players that include Billy Aukstik (trumpet), Stephen Chen (baritone sax), Lo Gwynn (vocals), Romi Hanoch (vocals), James kelly (trombone), Megan Mancini (vocals), Michael Sarason (flute) and a list of others.
Sonically, the album’s material draws from mid-20th Century exotica, 60s and 70s orchestral pop, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and Antibalas among others, as well as Applebaum’s experiences as a young filmmaker. Sonically speaking, the end result is an album that encompasses a loving reverence for the past without attempting to soullessly recreate it.
Thematically, the 12-song album sees Applebaum exploring the complicated, confusing and conflicting realm of love, with the album’s songs capturing the emotional notes of love going well and love gone sour, as though manifesting love songs based in ghostly affairs.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, I wrote about two A New Kind of Love‘s singles:
- “Scatter,” a cinematic affair that pairs Romi Hanoch’s sultry and ethereal delivery with an expansive, lush and downright trippy arrangement that’s one-part film-noir-like spy movie, one-part classic rom-com, one-part Blaxploitation — with a wild late-period John Coltrane-like saxophone freakout of a solo. But if you pay close attention, the song captures a narrator reeling from a love gone disastrously wrong but with the knowing self-assuredness and confidence that she deserves — and will get much better soon enough.
- “Why” a spectral and slow-burning bit of psych soul with Latin-influenced percussion paired with powerhouse vocals. The song manages to capture curiosity, obsession and desire with an uncanny psychological realism.
“Blockhead,” A New Kind of Love‘s third and latest single is narratively structured around a phone call between the song’s narrator — voiced by Megan Mancini — and an unheard listener, in which the narrator reminds their caller that their lover is absent, a virtual non-presence, who’s blowing it. And throughout, you can feel the narrator’s frustration with the other side of the phone call — with the narrator literally saying at one point, “what are you doing here?” Guaranteed, for most of us, this conversation should feel so familiar, that it scans simultaneously as advice and accusation. The song is built around a coolly funky and cinematic psych soul arrangement that’s roomy enough for some inspired and fiery soloing.
Directed by Ghost Funk Orchestra’s Seth Applebaum, and shot on glorious Kodak film, the accompanying video stars Megan Mancini as herself, on an old-fashioned landline and a lawn chair that she takes everywhere with her.