GHOSTS IN A SEASON marks the return of Aram, an idiosyncratic singer/songwriter who, after releasing 1997's EAST OF WESTERN and contributing a cover for a Springsteen tribute LP, has been silent up until now. Literally. Aram apparently sustained an injury to his vocal cords and was given a blunt assessment by his physician: unless Aram could remain silent ---no singing, no talking --- for at least six months, he might never be able to sing again. And the guy did it. Aram's self-discipline paid off, as is evident from GHOSTS IN A SEASON, which is a collection of 12 quirky, catchy, and occasionally maddening tunes.
The compositions on GHOSTS IN A SEASON sound like some wonderful collaboration between Roger McGuinn, Randy Newman, and Moon Martin. Aram goes off on all sorts of topics here. Perhaps the strangest is "Hey Dave," wherein the narrator runs into Dave, who "...shot the woman I love/left her for dead/emptied out her savings/at the A.T.M..."; and yet, Aram understands why! This is a deceptively simple song, open to a number of different interpretations, not all of them pleasant. Maybe NONE of them are pleasant. "Indian Summer" is addressed to a lover, long-gone --- possibly in more ways than one --- but very close at hand in memory. This --- as are many of Aram's other tunes in GHOSTS IN A SEASON --- is a haunting song. There are layers upon layers within the lyrics of Aram's songs, and while the melodies are not always the equal of the lyrics, each song, to varying degrees, is memorable in its own way. The standout on the CD, however, is the opening track, "Bluefish, " a gentle but uneasy rocker that opens with the lines "Sew some buttons on the shirt she gave you years ago/keep it in a box in a secret place" and grows from there into an account of unrequited love. It is extremely easy to get stuck on "Bluefish," to the exclusion of the other songs on GHOST OF A SEASON. This would be unfortunate; while not all of the other tunes are as accessible, as "Bluefish," they are all worthwhile. GHOSTS IN A SEASON is a fine sophomore followup to EAST OF WESTERN, and a testament to Aram's ability to hew a fine CD out of a block of significant and troubling adversity. This guy is worth watching, and worth listening to. His vision, though occasionally troubling, is riveting. Anything he does in the future will, like GHOSTS IN A SEASON, be worth checking out again and again.
- Joe Hartlaub AMZ Reviews
Sometime last year, singer/songwriter Aram (no last names, please) developed a throat condition that kept him from singing or even talking for six whole months. Recently arrived in L.A. from his native Boston, Aram had to wait it out until he could finish recording Ghosts in a Season. Perhaps it is this combination of transplant and illness that gives the best songs on this album such a distilled air of wistfulness and longing.
Aram has already released a first album, East of Western, on Subliminal records, but this is his first Surprise Truck release. And, Springsteen fans may recognize his reedy tenor from the 1997 Capitol/EMI tribute album One Step Up/Two Steps Back, on which he covered "Something in the Night". It's not hard to pick up Springsteen accents on this record, but its moody landscape is more reminiscent of Nebraska than of Springsteen's rocking blue-collar favorites. Other influences, all squarely in the time-honored singer/songwriter category seem to be Jackson Brown and Elton John and even the Beatles, all of whom are nobly honored on this unpretentious and straightforward album.
From Springsteen himself all the way back to Dylan and the Guthries, the singer/songwriter has always been a traveler of the back roads, a drifter far away from home. Ghosts in a Season finds a comfortable place for itself within this tradition, vividly evoking New England to the South to Los Angeles. It is truly a geography of displacement, longing, and loss upon which our singer/songwriter inscribes his laments: "Indian summer is not what it ought to be / when the colors of the palm trees don't change" ("Indian Summer"), or "I can't believe that any of my friends are even wondering where I am sleeping" ("Blackberry Winter"). Aram backs up this lyrical roadmap with competent and satisfyingly jangly guitar, tasteful strings, Hammond organ and the occasional handclap. The drums and bass in particular, supplied on this album by Elliot Smith collaborator Scott McPherson (who also co-wrote some of the songs) and PJ Olson's Matt Fitzell respectively, keep the otherwise traditional lineup from losing its freshness by adding light flourishes and extra melodic texture. Aram's voice, while not soaringly unusual like Michael Stipe's or gravelly and intimate like Springsteen's, nevertheless at moments approaches the best qualities of both.
And that's pretty much the whole story. There's nothing much innovative here, but it's all delivered with enough intelligence and earnestness that it doesn't matter. Plus, for this native New England girl, there's something satisfying about hearing our J. Crew-tainted landscape honored in a genuine way -- this album is scattered with references to red wool sweaters and Volvos with missing taillights. Thus my favorite song, "Bigger Highway", describes a trip to Los Angeles by way of Rockport and Portland, Maine with all the wistful and wide-eyed hope that characterized the credit sequence at the end of Good Will Hunting -- an old car and the tree-lined plush of Route 90 headed West.
- Margaret Schwartz Pop Matters
With a musical sensibility shaped by the earnest, purple prose style of '70s singer-songwriter mainstays like James Taylor, Ghosts in a Season glides from the speakers like a warm night breeze through a car window. Traveling a peripatetic path down the backroads of Georgia, California, Alabama, Maine and points unknown, the album ultimately leads not to a destination, but to the haunted season of its title. Dwelling almost entirely in an autumn twilight, these narrators are shaded with longing and a desire to reconnect with the past. The jangly guitars of "Bigger Highway" add a touch of early REM to the album, which uses guitar, vocal, drums, and bass as well as piano and occasional strings. A few tracks sink: the gently evocative lyric of "I Can't Remember Your Name" ("I can't remember your name/but I remember you were beautiful") drowns in diabetes-inducing piano and strings. Aram's lyrics occasionally spill into cliché, but for the most part touch compelling and emotionally tender spots, like "November"'s opening line, "I was just thinking of the love/I was afraid to ask for/And I can hear that fear come/Knockin' down my back door." To call an album "radio-ready" can in these days of corporate radio be an outright insult, but an autumn evening, a country road and Aram's songs on the car radio could keep you driving all night.
Nice and genuine heartfelt soft pop music with great lyrics and an obviously honest creator. Originally from Boston, Aram now resides and records in Los Angeles. Interesting story here. About a year or more ago when Aram was just beginning to hit the scene, he was diagnosed with a throat condition that required that he neither sing nor speak (!?!) for six months. Aram followed the doctor's orders … only to come out unscathed and intact. Ghosts In A Season is chock full of soft melodic tunes that'll stay with you. The lyric that we just CANNOT get out of our head is “Oh my love … is surrounded by dogs” (from the tune “Dogs”). This song has a wonderfully soaring melody that is infectious and unforgettable. Actually, this entire disc is rather impressive … particularly when you consider this is only Aram's second album. It is unfortunate that the cover art to this CD is so bland. It gave us the initial impression that this was some second-rate homemade project. WRONG. Our advice … ignore the cover and just listen. This guy made a believer out of us. (Rating: 4)
… building steam out in L.A. lately with his accoustic melodies and deep soulful vocals … at the core Aram is a fine performer … Aram's hard to discredit songwriting abilities … a bit of country and classic rock influence going on that should make this appeal to a wide range of listeners … worth a listen
An electric solo artist, Aram walks a line somewhere between Adult Contemporary pop and Adult Alternative Rock. “Bluefish” captures the edge and appeal of this combination quite well, though his vocal, while good, is a bit buried in the mix. We hear a Lennon/Harrison influence in the song “Dogs,” while “Serendipity” has a heavy undertow of piano and organ and a beefy drum sound that we like. Overall, this artist has digested his influences intelligently and his music is richly conceived.