Hey Ocean! bassist/vocalist David Vertesi’s third solo album is as diverse as his talents, featuring an inspired range of tales full of sentimentality.
Although melancholic indie-rock is my poison of choice, there are a few notable traits on David Vertesi’s Life Ghouls that hooked me: the concept of living ghosts, Vertesi’s distinct vocal tone, and the title of the track “It’s Hard to Make Art” (which uprooted my expectations in the best of ways). While I continue to struggle juggling creativity and existential dread, Vertesi is managing to make art out of every feeling in the book — even the happy ones.
Vertesi’s third solo album is as diverse as his talents, featuring an inspired range of tales full of sentimentality. The Hey Ocean! bassist and vocalist has a beautiful, distinct singing voice, with an earthy tone that really shines on more stripped-back tunes like “Sentimental”. Playful celestial synths and rich organ pads lay a little comfort over some of the more serious lyrics in “No Guarantees”: “Sometimes it’s all for nothing but the memories.”
David Vertesi animates Life Ghouls both sonically and literally, collaborating with local illustrator and tattoo artist Alex Joukov and animator Johnny Jansen to humanize the ghosts we carry. On “Waste” there’s a sort of call-and-response happening between the backing vocals and the lead: “I’m not scared of anything…except of wasting my time.” A big part of what I like about Vertesi’s music is the way he co-ops self-sabotage: “there’s an enemy living inside of me and he’s been wasting my time”. I think a lot of creative people can relate to this dialogue with the self and the enemy within. The expression ‘keep your enemies closer’ is key here. The lighthearted take on internal conflict in “It’s Hard to Make Art” suggests that, at times, it might be best to get friendly with the frightening bits.
Life Ghouls left me with the familiar but rare feeling of being optimistically sad; a feeling I’d like to get more comfortable with. We all have “ghosts” and there’s a strength in being able to sit with what haunts us, sing, and laugh through the grief. The record connects all that mortal fear to a sense of existential harmony with the natural world: “The moon was hanging from the trees just like you were weighing on me.” The lasting message is one of acceptance and fearlessness: “Baby, don’t you be all sentimental now, you’ll see it had to end somehow, like all things.”