CD Review: Magnets and Ghosts – Mass

Magnets and Ghosts - Mass

Mass, is the inaugural release from Magnets and Ghosts; a collaboration between Collective Soul guitarist and founding member Dean Roland, and musician/producer Ryan Potesta. Where the die hard Collective Soul fans would love to have more CS tunes, this 11 track full cd is nothing like Collective Soul! And for me that’s a wonderful thing.

From opening instrumental track “Reveillon” with its grand sweeping cathedral like notes and great booming drum beats to the closing track “Zealot” (which is sad and deep and heavy without being maudlin), this album is chock full of well written lyrics and well performed instrumentation.

“Light My Flame”, the second track in is electricity going down your spine. The lead vocals are slightly distorted over the heavy constant groove of the same guitar chord over and over into the chorus. The bridge kicks it up a notch with female voice (Christina Starr Wherry) punctuated by a guitar solo that enhances rather than grabbing all the attention.

“Hearts of Everyone” has the band singing a boppy tune that is instantly likeable. Listen to the lyrics closer and it’s not just fluff which is what I love about this entire album. Piano notes bring subtle texture to the song and keep it from being too overtly Pop. One of my favorite spots in this song is the drum solo mid stream by Ryan Hoyle and a guitar solo which doesn’t sound like a guitar.

“Mass” is the title track and is reminiscent of a Gregorian chant but again the lyrics are intriguing in this too short song.

“Hold On” gripped me by the throat from the first listen and hasn’t let go yet. The lead vocal is melodic and dreamy, as is the instrumentation, and the backing vocals in a much deeper pitch add a multidimensional feel to this floating quality. Despite this effervescence, the song is a thinker if you scratch below the surface. There is vulnerability here in the lyrics… one feels that they’re very personal.

“The Sea and the Sound is another catchy tune that will hook you on first listen (no pun intended). Hard to tell who is singing main vocals, but a lone voice ends the song with an accapella of final lyrics in a very raw unpolished voice which just ‘makes’ the song in my opinion.

Gang vocals and hand clapping start “I Want You” on a strong and interesting note and the song keeps building from there. Snappy lyrics and a definite drum and bass groove lend to me wanting to get up and move to the music while singing. I love how this song ends with a squalling guitar note.

“Like a Sunday” is another lighter sounding song similar to “Hearts of Everyone” in that it might be a more radio friendly ‘single’ type of song, but the lyrics are introspective and questioning.  There is a definite spiritual quality to this song – perhaps why it’s titled “Like a Sunday”?

“Morning Rails” is perhaps the darkest song on the album. The lead voice is deep and monotone to punctuate brooding lyrics. Get to the bridge however, and the guitar work is reminiscent of U2’s The Edge in Achtung Baby – hard hitting, frantic pace, and flawless. Hoyle’s drums are forefront and center and the mix is balanced to perfection.

“Half Awake” brings thoughts of lying on a bench in a train station waiting, waiting, and dozing off into that not quite asleep state (hence aptly named). Disembodied vocals have an ethereal quality to lend to the dream like state.

Building on that half awake state is the closer, “Zealot”. Listen to the lyrics though, and it’s a sad tale of addiction and yearning/searching. It’s one of my favorite tracks off the album.

This album is a unique, delightful discovery for me. The duo (Potesta and Roland) have worn their hearts on their sleeves and because of that risk taking and vulnerability, have come up with a fantastic debut album. They also did not over produce the album – they let little imperfections and realisms stay on the tracks and that adds to the feeling of realism. The duo wrote, produced and performed nearly every piece of the album themselves (except for bass, trumpet, strings and drums). Zealot was co-written by Shaun Grove who also co-engineered the album with Potesta.