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REVIEW: Strawberry Girls – “Italian Ghosts”

When London-based rock group America released their hit “You Can Do Magic“ in 1982, the guys in Strawberry Girls might have taken this term at face value; indeed, they ‘do magic’ on their new record Italian Ghosts, released on February 17th 2014 via Tragic Hero Records.

After their brilliant record American Graffiti in 2015, the band is now back with (mostly) brand new music. If you are familiar with Strawberry Girls you might wonder why they are releasing a record called Italian Ghosts. After all, that was the name of the first output by the band in 2011. This record is basically a re-release, but a very special one! The reissue has ten tracks, while the original EP only had six; the recording and production were reworked as well, so now those Italian Ghosts sparkle in a very new light that is one thing and one thing only: stunning.

THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED TO DANCE GAVIN DANCE

Honestly, if Zac Garren wouldn’t have started Strawberry Girls and continued in Dance Gavin Dance, we may have never heard this awesome music. When taking a closer look at the cover, one might see that the artwork actually reflects the album’s name. Possibly referencing the city of Venice, it looks like the music of Strawberry Girls sounds: colorful, mysterious and exciting. Of course, due to the past of guitarist Zac Garren, there is still some kind of itchy Dance Gavin Dance vibe to the music on Italian Ghosts. This isn’t a bad thing at all, and the similarity works well. Quirky guitar lines and r’n’b/soul (“The Hate Of Loving You“) or hip hop passages (“Thank God“) are paired with gospel-esque influences and post-hardcore, as well as some prog-rock riffing. Well yes, that’s plenty of influences, but they blend so perfectly!

With “Vanilla Rainforest”, the band teased the release of this album, and the song truly represents the band. Melodic guitar riffing, complex drumming and lovely, grooving bass lines form the core of the track. In fact, this rainforest has its very own mood, which is more mysterious than vanilla. While “Thank God” stands out with Nic Newsham (Gatsby’s American Dream) as a vocalist, it also delivers a very hip hop vibe, that again reminds me of Dance Gavin Dance at times.

MUSICAL QUOTES AND DIFFERENT FEATURES

When Strawberry Girls released American Graffiti, they did an interpolation of Bill Whithers‘ “Just The Two Of Us” and the chorus melody of Stevie Wonders‘ “Isn’t She Lovely?”. On the very first version of the song “South American Sun“, the band has also hidden a little musical allusion to recently passed artist George Michael (RIP) and his number one hit “Careless Whisper”. If Strawberry Girls wouldn’t have had it in the original version of this song, it might have been absolutely intriguing to pay respect to a fellow musician. Anyway, this is how to do a tribute. It’s only done slightly, but 100% convincing.

And again, Italian Ghosts is not only instrumental music; the band teamed up with some special guests. Sarah Glass, for example, who already featured on their track “Volcano Worship“. She does a nice job on “Shadow Of The Moon“ together with Kathleen Delano and Jenna Fournier. As a follow-up to the forthgoing “Been That, Done There“, it also stays in the same harmony whilst quoting its melody and thus creating an interesting sequel to the original song.

Said song starts off smooth and gets even smoother, what with the beautiful voice and some keen utilization of the glockenspiel while tremolo guitars are creating an ambiance. When listening to a song like this, one might ask why Strawberry Girls don’t go ‘full band’; they could add a full-time singer for sure. But on the other side, they do keep their diversity alive by being a trio and having various guests on different tracks. Anyway, “Shadow Of The Moon” is a beautiful way to end a record that is astonishingly beautiful as well. Everyone who is can appreciate good music will adore this track!

IN CONCLUSION

The new original songs off Italian Ghosts truly shimmer on this rerelease. Where the first EP by Strawberry Girls was somewhat harsh and raw-sounding, the new versions sound amazing! Needless to say that the production is top-notch, conveying a lot of heart, warmth and the aforementioned magic. This is how you rework old songs to make them shine like diamonds! Diamonds that shine in bright colors ’cause they got shaped so perfectly no less! Strawberry Girls play music, but how they do so is pure magic. Italian Ghosts will haunt you throughout the day, digging deep into your heart. It just won’t let you down. Close your eyes, be aware of goosebumps and get enchanted by Italian Ghosts!

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Score: 9.5/10

Notable Tracks: “Vanilla Rainforest“ , “South American Sun“ , “Shadow Of The Moon“

FFO: Dance Gavin Dance, Tides Of Man, A Lot Like Birds

Follow Strawberry Girls on Facebook and buy Italian Ghosts on their Bandcamp!

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