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Music Review: DM Stith – Heavy Ghost

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DM Stith began his musical career in Brooklyn doing design work on Shara Worden’s records. He contributed backing vocals and piano on some tunes as well, all the while allowing the natural currents of music to push him where it was he needed to go.

Heavy Ghost represents the next push in Stith’s melodious passage. His debut full-length comes after his EP, Curtain Speech, collected substantial critical acclaim. After spending over a year writing and constructing Heavy Ghost, Stith’s paranormal scope, incredible songwriting, and lingering vocals will be finally unleashed.

DM Stith comes from a musical family, with his grandfather a professor emeritus in the music department at Cornell University and his father a college wind ensemble director. The music bug scared young Stith before it bit him, however, almost putting him off of the craft forever after a luckless turn of The Phantom of the Opera at a school assembly. Providentially for us, he started a noise band in high school, wrote lots of bad poetry, and befriended Shara Worden. The creepy-crawly flew around again, bit him, and DM Stith was finally ready to grace the world with the songs in his head.

Heavy Ghost is an absorbing work of evocative folk music; broad instrumentation; and passionate, personal songs.

A simple piano introduction on “Isaac’s Song” pulls us into Stith’s consciousness. The ghosts stalk in the background and his vocals call to mind a bit of Thom Yorke over the clamour of clattering keys and throbbing sound.

As the song fades into the tender guitar of “Pity Dance,” something beautiful happens. The music is jarring, it' wraith-like vocals floating over touches of guitar and atmosphere.

The tribal drums of “Creekmouth” call to mind visions of an ancient ritual, while the charming classical tremble of “Fire of Birds” invokes different sentiments altogether with its mass of instruments.

Stith’s record is probing, passionate, and constantly exhilarating. He shifts naturally from mood to mood, room to room, and always leaves a shadow behind so that we might follow. With clarinet, piano, strings, percussion, guitar, saxophone, and a little musical aid from Sufjan Stevens and Worden, the album shines.

Moving elegantly from the vulnerability of “Braid of Voices” to the traditional folk pace of “Morning Glory Cloud,” it’s clear that Stith has his “own policies” when it comes to elucidation. Thankfully, he’s allowed us in to his cosmos of ideas, perhaps breaking his own policies once and for all with the vitality of this Heavy Ghost.

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