Album review: Saltwater

Sean Brady, Contributor Ω

Ghost Lights's EP Saltwater.

Ghost Lights’s EP Saltwater.

The terms “indie” and “folk” are quickly losing all meaning with more and more artists laying claim to these genre tags. Everyone wants in on the scene, but what happens when they get there?

Ghost Lights’s new EP Saltwater tries to set itself above the crowd with distinct lyrical themes appealing to a moody Pacific Northwest traveler.

Ghost Lights is a project from Noah Cebuliak, a 23-year-old multi-talented musician based in Montréal. Saltwater is the first release and although just a taste, it’s more than promising.

The album’s opening track, “Fog Chief,” is a romantic 4.5 minutes that evokes images of natural beauty set in overcast and drenched with rain. It sets the tone of the album’s imagery and gives a well-rounded introduction to Cebuliak’s style.

There’s no hard stance on tone throughout the album. Nothing is particularly upbeat. Nothing is particularly downbeat. But that doesn’t mean the album falls into a monotonous trap, either. It remains compelling by mixing tones in almost every track. When the melodies turn remorseful, Cebuliak’s voice is hopeful.

Saltwater’s lyrics are a tribute to the wilderness. But they’re more than that – there are hints of history here. The old west frontier shines through more than a few times. Mining, logging, and long, harsh winters – it’s all there.

It’s not just what those on the frontier would have experienced, though. It’s the letters they wrote home, the poetry to lovers they never met and the stories they told their grandchildren long after they cleared their land and built a home.

Noah Cebuliak.

Noah Cebuliak.

The album’s standout track is “The Flask,” where Cebuliak is able to project so much more and the guitar and bass are so full of character that if they were on any other track, they would drown the lyrics.

Wherever this EP has taken you, “Heart of Wind,” the album’s last track, will bring you home in comfort. Cebuliak plays piano and returns to his more subdued lyrical style, but the track doesn’t suffer for it. In fact, none of them do.

At first, Saltwater feels like it blurs together. Every track has a similar pace and most of them share common musical elements. If one of your favourite parts of an album is the juxtaposition, the “party song” amidst the ambience, you might be disappointed. Don’t wait for the crescendo – it never comes.

But if your approach to the album is the right one, expecting something you can relax to and be introspective by, you’ll find comfort in the wide open spaces and woody back roads Ghost Lights sends you to.