It will certainly make you dance. That’s the first, and most important thing that needs to be said about Holy Ghost!’s new album. On their sophomore LP, the Brooklyn duo reinforces their synth-pop direction and exhibits obvious throwback elements of Italo-disco and ’80s dance music. Influences from classics like Depeche Mode and New Order are blatant throughout the record, simultaneously making it a party essential while diminishing its validity in terms of originality.
It’s true, music influences music, that will always be the case. But when a band bites so much from others and fails to display some clear individual quirk, it’s hard not to question the merit of an album. After all, songs should not just be quintessential dance tracks but also have compelling elements that make them work in a variety of scenarios.
Perhaps the mild disappointment comes from the high expectations placed on Holy Ghost! after the release of their self-titled debut in 2011. Back then, James Murphy’s young protégées appeared on the DFA scene with an array of fresh, shiny tracks that revealed their strong potential to develop. Whether the duo has simply not reached that point yet, or if they are just comfortable where they are, the Dynamics falls short of those expectations.
The record has some great moments, and is filled front-to-back with slick, catchy tracks that eventually reveal some emotional depth with repeated listens. “Okay” for instance, combines smooth electro-pop with some intense lyrics that give it a distinctive feel. This sexy track serves as a strong opener and sets the mood in which the rest of the album unfolds. The record continues with “Dumb Disco Ideas”, a beat-based disco jam that builds you up and somehow keeps you there for eight minutes straight without your ever getting bored. The song is the epitome of what the whole album is about: dancing.
Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel’s New York background is evident in their material, both musically and lyrically. Aside from providing the kind of tunes that can be heard in nearly every Manhattan club, the album also goes from literal references like the repetition of the phrase “Back to New York City” (in the Italo-disco fed track, Bridge and Tunnel), to more subtle synth-pop allusions like the New York habit of blaming the shitty weather for every emotional downfall (It Must Be The Weather). This NYC-centrism doesn’t necessarily aid the album in terms of music, but it does add some sense of relatability for all those in love with the New York—or any big city for that matter.
Dynamics ends with the smooth pop track Cheap Shots, which serves as the last ovation to the ’80s electro-disco scene. As its title implies, the record is full of a dynamism that sometimes sets it apart from others out there, and will undoubtedly show listeners a good time. Is it self-reflective or innovative? No, it isn’t. But it’s still a dancefloor essential and a fine pop record that is certainly worth a chance.