Album Review: North Street Air // Holiday Ghosts

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British band Holiday Ghosts are back on FatCat Records with a new album North Street Air, published on 21 May. 

For those in the know, North Street is one of Brighton’s liveliest streets, connecting the parade with the city’s famous Laines and up into its music district. The address inspired the band. Ahead of the album, drummer Katja Rackin and guitarist Sam Stacpoole spent six months there. They explain: “North Street is the busiest and most polluted feeling street in Brighton, and for six months that’s where we lived. Having the city centre at your doorstep provides so many bizarre experiences and scenarios, so many weird and interesting people, continuous noise, and  crowds.”

Young, British, engaged Holiday Ghosts have been active since 2016 and independent from any producer. This reflects also in the sound and lyrics of North Street Air: unclean, unadulterated and uncompromised. The new project revolves around stories of landlords, steady jobs, wrong turns, short straws, and city life – addressing themes of displacement, disillusionment, living in the midst of heavy advertising and commercial landscapes, and the impact of capitalism on creative cultures. 

The opening track ‘Mr. Herandi’ could mislead with its vibrancy. The song poses as a political declaration. It is dedicated to a wealthy (and filthy) landlord who spends summer in Spain, while the two of them struggle to fix the shower.  “I think about my landlord” / why can’t he pay to fix this shower / he’s a wealthy man”. The message here and in the whole album seems to be “Love everyone except your landlord.” There’s a general search for warmth, maybe the one missing in a city life routine. 

The album also addresses the weight of daily living on creative cultures, trying to put the spotlight on the difficulty to live as an artist in such a world. The topics are political due especially to Katja’s background. She comes from a family of political refugees, in which discussions of inequality and other social issues have always been at the forefront of her day-to-day.

As for the music, guitars are paramount – in different shades: raw, electric, acoustic. But definitely inspired by some 70s-rock and roll-style like Velvet Underground or Violent Femmes. Musical reference is present for example in eighth track ‘Total crisis’. About the song, the author Charlie Murphy says: “Total Crisis was written before the world descended into an actual total crisis. It’s about deciding whether you can live with a personal problem, or whether it should be the catalyst for a big change.” There are hints of folk, country, and garage and a valuable role for drums. Modern Lovers, The Kinks and Alex Chilton come to mind. The seventh track ‘Making a fool’ stands in the middle of the journey for its acoustic, soul and folk sound. 

North Street Air is an album racked with uncertainty and unease, but also with the possibility to pause such tormented feeling. It is really like walking around a street: you don’t know what you will find as soon as you turn the corner. You don’t know what to expect from the following track. You don’t know what kind of people inhabit the street and what their stories are, just like you don’t know which voice will be predominant in which song. 

North Street Air it’s also like walking into a sunny street with a sunny mood and meeting your favourite people: in fact Kat and Sam share lead vocals alongside returning band-mate and song writer, Charlie Murphy, and a host of other musicians from Falmouth (Cornwall) where the band began. 

North Street Air includes different corners connected by a thread, just like a road contains  different souls and people and stories. However, in the end, “All the many faces / that you’ve never see” have in common steady jobs, financial uncertainty, wrong choices, displacement.

Words by Miriam Viscusi


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