After 2004's We Fight Til Death Windsor for the Derby principals Dan Matz and Jason McNeeley relocated to Philadelphia separately. The close proximity removed the "project" tag from Derby's name, since Matz and McNeeley could now spend indefinite amounts of time recording and playing shows with WFTD. They also added full-time personnel on drums and bass guitar, and nothing says "band" -- not "project" -- like a rhythm section. These tweaks to the formula likely account for the dramatic sonic shifts in 2005's Giving Up the Ghost. While Death had more vocals and a greater melodic sense than past records, Ghost is its own mysterious pop animal, an immediately unique and curious document that suggests slowcore, unplugged Yo La Tengo, introspective indie-folk, and the post-rock/experimental voyages WFTD's always taken. "Giving Up" begins with a gentle acoustic guitar and pained, wizened vocals; soft percussion brushes come in, and slowly a clamoring electric guitar and faraway harmony vocals appear out of the mist. It's definitely pop, but it's been deconstructed and refashioned. Unlimited studio time definitely has its charms. The crisp, nimble "Empathy for People Unknown" could be the Aluminum Group, while "Shadows" is claustrophobic and tense, driving toward a payoff for its wiling bass guitar and freaky, flanging keyboard effect. The song's vocals are once again buried in the background, giving it a gauzy quality that's just incredible. You think you can touch it, but then you can't, and it's like a dream unfolding all around you. Red House Painters and Low are also touchstones for Giving Up the Ghost. Acoustic guitars strum along to feedback in unseen chambers, and "Every Word You Ever Said" revels in the space between its halting notes until a shimmering, liquid-mercury keyboard drifts into the frame and drums tumble in between. But for all its faraway humming and quietly steady pace, Windsor for the Derby has still made a "band" album. It always sounds recorded live, and the instruments join in at such an organic pace, it's not like someone pressed a button or clicked a mouse. Giving Up the Ghost is truly a record of atmospheres, and you can't create those in the mail.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus