Debut EP Saltwater sure to set sail

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March 8, 2013

Ghost Lights
Saltwater EP (2012)
Produced by James Finnerty

Reviewed by Jennifer Louise Taylor

Ghost Lights is the debut musical project of a former west-coaster now living in Montreal, Noah Cebuliak, who sings and plays most of the parts on the EP.  He’s supported by a wide cast of equally talented folks, including producer James Finnerty. The result is a well-produced and artfully arranged collection of songs that reflect a wide variety of influences. Saltwater has elements of folk for the folkies, R&B for the soul-minded, stimulating lyrics for the intellectually curious and enough ambient sound and jazzy bass riffs for those just wanting to sit back and enjoy the ride.

The album is inspired by Cebuliak’s west coast wilderness travels: if you have ever found yourself with feet in sand, a hot cup of coffee warming your hands as you watch the fog roll in off the water on a “soft” west coast morning, then you already have a sense of what this album evokes in the listener. Saltwater works because the lyrics, instrumentation and vocals are thoughtfully crafted, giving the listener a cohesive,  intriguing musical experience.

In the second track, “A Train is Coming,” smooth vocals offer a musical onomatopoeia of an oncoming train; the song creates an R&B/old-time feel, applied to sentiments of love and loss that leaves you feeling joyfully lonesome. The album’s fourth track, “Babble from a Beehive,” reminiscent of California artist Brett Dennen, has a fabulous acoustic dynamic with plucked strings and breezy horns contrasting with the rich, soothing vocals of Cebuliak. The only track on Saltwater that left me sitting musically confused and lyrically dusty, was Thundercloud with its retro 70s rock feel. For me, it does not hold the same rich, ambient, melodic feel of the other five tracks. That being said, five gems out of six songs, is stellar for any album, let alone a debut EP.

Cebuliak says his melodies often come to him “while walking or sitting outside in nature.” As a songwriter, he has the unique ability to melodically distil the essence of the outdoors without lyrically watering down the complexity of human experience. What is more, the lyrics are clearly enunciated and beautifully presented for the listener–always a boon, but particularly with lyrics worth hearing.

Ghost Lights’ Saltwater is a musical example of a journey well taken– like that memorable summer spent with your wisest and most eclectic elderly uncle. In this case, the purveyor of the experience happens to be at the beginning of his journey. If this is just the start, then I truly look forward to seeing where Cebuliak’s future musical musings will take him and us.

A Train is Coming:

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Jennifer Louise Taylor is a Victoria-based musician and former world traveller who enjoys the sound of west-coast rain on a cold tin roof.

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