Good singing and playing are just not enough to make amazing music. You also need a certain X-factor of awesomeness, originality, and mojo! Ghost Stories, released independently on October 29, 2019 by New Jersey solo artist Project Atlantic, is a perfect example of this. The entire record is perfectly executed, but sounds like stock music in advertising.
Multi-musician Josh Zimmer, the project’s sole writer and performer, has put out a record that sounds great, but the content fails to grab my attention. Ghost Stories is Zimmer’s first release featuring lyrics and vocals, which could mean there’s room for improvement in the future. Well recorded and mixed, with good singing and playing, Ghost Stories is ultimately generic-sounding. It wasn’t unpleasant to listen to, but it still falls just shy of the passing grade.
Opening track “Far Away” sets the tone with a mellow, melancholic sound that hangs on for the rest of the album, as Zimmer leads us through a progression of instrumentals and ballads. Maybe it’s because he has more experience with this production style, but the former seems to be better constructed and has a more mature sound. For example, “While You Were Dreaming” is a gripping number with a catchy, Explosions In The Sky style guitar lead and some impressive melodic bass playing.
The songs with lyrics and vocals, however, sound collegiate. Zimmer sings pretty well, but his vocal melodies all ring a bell, as if I’ve heard some variation before. Hopefully, he’ll improve upon his vocal melodies in his future releases, as he seems to have done with instruments.
Overall, though, the biggest problem is that all of the tracks on Ghost Stories sound like stock music. I expect to hear music like this in ads for household supplies or life insurance, or in an emotional scene in some low-budget rom-com. It’s not bad music per se, but I wouldn’t listen to it for its inherent value.
I am curious to hear what Zimmer comes up with for his next Project Atlantic release. I expect his vocal composing may improve somewhat. On the other hand, maybe what he really needs is to play with other musicians or even try his hand at producing. As it stands, this record fell flat to my ears.
Written by Henri Brillon
*Edited by Dominic Abate