Michael Barnes debut EP ‘Ghosts’, featuring his debut single of the same name, has been years in the making, and clearly over that time Michael has been inspired by his many great musical influences to create something drenched in style and tone. Throughout the four tracks Michael blends together modern, electric indie music with iconic synth sounds of the 80s, giving the EP a sense of familiarity and heritage.
The opening title track establishes the tone for the whole EP superbly. The mystical synth arpeggios create an uneasy opening atmosphere before Michael begins singing with a soft, breath heavy voice. Complemented by the arrangement of the song, his soothing voice creates a drowsy sensation when listening, where you can find yourself zoned out listening to the layers of harmonic texture playing in your ear. Just as smoothly as the opening track begins, it transitions into the next song which continues the sophisticated instrumentation and soft singing, with instrumental moments that remind me of vintage game boys such as at the end of the track ‘Those Eyes’.
However, the stand out track on the EP, which to me is a class above the rest, is the ending track ‘Without You’. With its strummed acoustic guitar intro it is immediately unique compared to the rest of the EP, as the only song not to begin with a synthesized instrument. ‘Without You’ is a warm, happy-sad song and doesn’t continue the uneasy, mystical moods built up to this point. Michael’s lyrics in this song beautifully add to its juxtaposition, with lines such as “is your sunset much better than mine” suggesting how life was much better with his “baby”, compared to “my bed is so cold without you” highlighting the loneliness and inhospitable nature of being alone.
Michael has discussed how many of the songs came together as compilations of musical ideas he had, and to me this is clear in the first three tracks of the EP as they are all very similar, both in mood and in rhythm, sometimes feeling repetitive. However, they are impressive and concise when listened to back to back, fitting comfortably with each other. The final song is a change of direction from these songs, less 80s and more reminiscent of some of his influences, sharing the same chord sequence as The Beatles B-side ‘I’ll Get You’. I look forward to hearing more from Michael and am keen to see which musical avenue he chooses to explore,
Words by: Louis Upton-Wheeler