Cherry Ghost

Herd Runners

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The third outing for Simon Aldred under the Cherry Ghost moniker, Herd Runners finds the melancholic Northern Englishman scaling back some of the alt-rock muscle of 2010's Beneath This Burning Shoreline in favor of a more measured and refined sound that amps up the cinematic aspects of the group. Aldred stocks the record with enough big, sweeping, largely midtempo tales of ruin, reward, sin, stagnation, and salvation to cause the listener to think that they may have inadvertently cued up the latest Richard Hawley album, and they're almost right, as the ten-track collection was guided to port by the sure hands of longtime Hawley producer Colin Elliot. Like Hawley, Aldred has a knack (and the voice) for conjuring up an atmosphere that's both wistful and comforting, like a sick day where you're not too sick to putz about the house, and the album's majestic opening volley, "Clear Skies Ever Closer," with its weepy, MOR strings and soulful, Motown-via-four-lads-from-Liverpool-inspired melody, is pure audio convalescence. It's Ferris Bueller's Day In, and Aldred aims to keep him there with the like-minded "Don't Leave Me Here Alone," a heartache-ridden cry for help disguised as a semi-perky soul-pop confection, and the overcast, Scott Walker-esque "Drinking for Two," a lush and languid retro-ballad that sounds like an old standard waking up foggy and bemused in a new century. The same could be said about much of the largely ephemeral Herd Runners. Aldred is in top form here, and with Elliot's help he's unearthed a music box filled with undeniable loveliness, but the songs are as fleeting as they are lustrous; museum pieces without placards. They are ghosts of the past, present, and future, but ghosts all the same.

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