State Broadcasters - Ghosts We Must Carry

A perfect record to accompany the oncoming long drawn out winter nights.

‘Ghosts We Must Carry’ the second album from Glasgow folk sextet State Broadcasters is a record characterised by a severe sense of loss and a desperate aching sadness. Ultimately, though, the overriding emotion you are left with after listening to this gorgeous album is hope and redemption. It makes for a strangely uplifting and enormously compelling listen.

It would be very easy to pigeonhole State Broadcasters into an increasingly tedious and clichéd idea of a traditional Scottish folk band. There are no doubt lots of trad elements present and the crackle and hiss of an old gramophone and a homespun sparseness feature throughout. These traditional structures and styles do not define the band though. What does is their hugely impressive song craft and ability to make uplifting music from the depths of despair.

As the title suggests ‘Ghosts We Must Carry’ is about memories and emotions, primarily bad but sometimes good, and how those feelings can stay with you eternally. This manifests itself in a number of wistful gentle laments. Opener ‘The Only Way Home’ is a tribute of sorts to Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and Vic Chesnutt and it is an impossibly lovely track, which grows effortlessly into its luxurious instrumentation and bruised melancholy.

The contrast with State Broadcasters is that when the songs are there most maudlin the melodies tend to be wonderfully bright and exuberant. The lilting rolling piano of ‘Tresspassers’ is a case in point. Vocalist Graeme black delivers like, ‘We were born with tears in our eyes’ in a plaintive croon over gentle piano.

The juxtaposition between emotions is even starker on standout ‘The Writing’s On The Wall’. A meditation on the overpowering emotions of depression introduced by the line, “The black dog is on the prowl again” it is vibrant and freewheeling, sounding like the brightest most joyous song you could imagine - despite the doleful lyrics.

‘This Old Table’ offers up quite the opposite with devastating emotional effect. It is a very bleak piece with the twin vocals of Black and Gillian Fleetwood unadorned but for droning harmonium. The imagery of “No card games left to lose” and a total feeling of loss and despair is extremely harrowing. The bleakness shows how State Broadcasters have that priceless capability as songwriters to at once make you fell gloriously upbeat and then crushingly sad. These feelings are roused repeatedly throughout the album.

‘Ghosts We Must Carry’ is a record of real emotional depth. A depth makes it an intense but highly rewarding listen. A perfect record to accompany the oncoming long drawn out winter nights.

Tags: State Broadcasters, Reviews, Album Reviews

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