My favorite album of 2007 (by a wide margin), the debut album from Bolton's Cherry Ghost (a.k.a. Simon Aldred, who named his band after a line from a Wilco song) is full of haunting melodies, sharply poetic lyrics and killer imagery. Entitled Thirst for Romance (fitting, actually, as I picked it up at Rough Trade in London while on my amazing honeymoon with my wife Jenny), the album moves beautifully from track to track, kicking things off with the toe-tapping title track. Follow up songs "4 am" and "Mountain Bird" are prime alt-country mid tempo sing-alongs, but the album hits its first incredible high with "People Help the People," a sweeping melancholic ballad that set up camp in my head the second I heard it and never left. This starts the heart of the album--follow up song "Roses" is a seductive slow-burner that culminates in some crashing percussion, leading into Aldred's crowning moment, "Dead Man's Suit." Layers upon layers of guitar, viola and cello mash together with stirring sung images like "Sister quick, pull the chord/There's a horse on the ward/With a mouthful of diamonds for teeth/In a dusty old cape stands a man in its wake/Singing I got a woman that loves like an ocean." The well-placed "False Alarm" comes after, with wistful sing-song harmonies, soon making way for a few more up-tempo numbers, such as "Here Come The Romans." Aldred closes the set with "Mathematics," a catchy indie rocker that shuffles along brilliantly.
Described by Aldred himself as "Willie Nelson meets Walt Disney," Thirst for Romance is a wonderful mesh of Americana, alt-country and indie rock, with shades of Wilco, Josh Ritter, Joe Henry, Peter Gabriel and Crowded House. I can't recommend this more--I don't believe it has been officially released in the U.S. as of yet (wha?), but seek it out at Amoeba or on the Internet. After a few listens, I guarantee you'll be hooked.