Holy Ghost!


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Dynamics could be considered the first proper album from Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser, whose self-titled debut as Holy Ghost! -- part singles compilation, part standard album -- was made incrementally over several years. It's undoubtedly steadier and unified, built for beginning-to-end listening. Nothing is quite as momentous as earlier A-sides like "Hold On" or "I Will Come Back," but the songs are more finely detailed and developed. It also sounds more like the work of a band than a production duo, due in part to more involvement from collaborators, such as Nancy Whang, who played the role of Shay Jones on the duo's 2011 cover of Ministry's "I Wanted to Tell Her"; she adds background vocals to half of the songs. Just as notably, Millhiser's choppy post-punk guitar is more prominent. Two of the album's best songs are also the slowest, placed in the middle of the sequence. "It Must Be the Weather" confronts stunted adulthood pensively yet optimistically; even as an instrumental, it's among the most well-crafted modern synth pop, constantly shifting in shape throughout six frosty and entrancing minutes. "I Wanna Be Your Hand," another highlight, is dreamier and more spaced-out than anything on the debut, and it has a drifting soft rock quality -- like America gone moody new wave -- that recalls Usher's "Looking 4 Myself." (An Empire of the Sun coincidence/connection between the songs is too complex to explain here.) The duo's more energetic side shines, too. On "Bridge and Tunnel," they're joined by a string section that features viola from Kelly Polar, and it's the closest the album gets to an "I Will Come Back," with percolating electronics and wistful lyrics about New York City clubbing. "Cheap Shots" closes the album on a sonically rippling, lyrically zinging note, like they're ready to leave early adulthood -- but not their New Order records -- to the past.

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