Recording information: Crackle & Pop Studio; Toy Camera House.
Downpilot's 2015 album Radio Ghost opens with the sound of the last fading echo of a sustained guitar chord, and it seems a fitting way to begin a set of songs that play on nuance as much as what's on the surface, both musically and lyrically. According to Paul Hiraga, who as lead vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist essentially is Downpilot, the first five songs on Radio Ghost are intended to be a song cycle informed by his father's experiences in an internment camp for Japanese-American citizens during World War II, and the tone of the music certainly communicates a sense of loss, sadness, and betrayal, with the electric ringing guitar lines, the sturdy acoustic strum, and the spare but implacable rhythm of the minimal bass and percussion conjuring the dry, forbidding plains of the Southwest. These songs are full of beautiful surfaces, and this music is excellent at evoking a mood; it's all the more impressive that Hiraga and his collaborators can so effectively recall the sunburnt solitude of the desert since they hail from rainy Seattle, Washington, and the subtleties of the production and engineering (mostly handled by Hiraga) are strikingly effective. Radio Ghost is often remarkable in its execution, and in the long run it plays like an ambient piece that's effective even when you're not paying full attention to it. ~ Mark Deming