Album Review: Daniel Land - In Love With A Ghost

Around a year after the release of The Space Between Us, Daniel Land pretty much walked away from music, almost completely.

He split up the group he had been fronting and was the namesake of—Daniel Land and The Modern Painters, relocated to a new city, and deactivated the band’s social media outlets without explanation. As he eventually started working his way back to music, he also began to have health issues: inner-ear infections that left him partially deaf for over a year.

After years of working on his health, Land has completed what can be looked at as his first solo record, In Love With A Ghost, a self examining and self aware album that takes his dream pop and shoegaze past into account, while mixing it in with additional influences and styles to push things forward into a broader, more pop focused singer/songwriter oriented accessible sound.

Much like his work with The Modern Painters, the songs Land has crafted as a solo artists on In Love With A Ghost are still huge and cinematic in scope; they are still dreamy and they still swoon in all the right places. In the press materials for the album, he said he began writing songs on the piano, rather than writing for a band with three guitar players. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a dream pop depth to these songs. No, they are all richly textured and multi-layered—working with Brin Coleman as a producer, he and Land have developed an inviting, intimate, and warm sounding record.

For a record recorded in a number of different locales, over a long gestating period of time, Coleman and Land have also, surprisingly, been able to cobble together a rather cohesive sounding effort. They’re all pure Daniel Land: his mush-mouthed meets Jonsi caterwauling soars above crisp sounding percussion and slightly cavernous, incredibly dreamy sounding guitar swirls. And over the course of the last four years, he hasn’t lost his knack for dramatic, sweeping grandeur. In Love With A Ghost opens with a song over seven minutes in length, complete with a saxophone solo; later he dips into slight electronica with the skittering “Holes on The Dance Floor.” He shuffles with the album’s first single, “New York Boogie Woogie,” and he slinks on the slow burning groove “Saints With His Mercy.”

Land has always had a preoccupation with what no longer is—on The Space Between Us, he wrote a rather jaunty song called “Sleeping With The Past.” Here, he is obviously treading into the same territory—the album’s called In Love With A Ghost. Cognizant of the journey he’s taken over the last decade, he opens up on “Everyone’s Got A Guy Garvey Story”: “There was no call at home for my blend of shoegaze song. And the noise we made, nobody ever heard the words I sung.”

After years of silence and self imposed exile, I presumed Land, like many musicians working within the independent circuit, had just called it a day and was going to fade into obscurity, so with that being said In Love With A Ghost is a welcome return, arriving at a time when I am a lot less interested in shoegaze and dream pop then I was, say, in 2012 and 2013. However, I am still interested enough to have invested the time to listen to the album and enjoy it—it’s an enjoyable record from start to finish, covering myriad moods and tones throughout. It’s not the kind of thing that resonates deeply however, but is admirable in its gigantic scope and meticulous production values, making it a worthwhile listen for those familiar with Land’s work in his former band, or for dream pop and shoegaze aficionados looking for something that focuses more on songwriting and presentation than on noise and dissonance.

In Love With A Ghost is out now as a digital download and on compact disc, direct from Land himself.