Meredith Graves – Took the Ghost to the Movies (Stream, Photos)
by Steven Spoerl
One of the things I’ve been looking forward to about 2015 is the gradual unveiling of Meredith Graves‘ solo project. It’s something the tirelessly creative artist has had in the cards for more than a year. Now, after a near-torturous developmental stage marked by immovable deadlines and increasingly heightened expectations, the first look towards what that solo project might wind up sounding similar to has arrived. “Took the Ghost to the Movies” is Graves’ side of Kevin Devine’s Devinyl split 7″ series. As an evolutionary step in Graves’ solo career, it’s full of intrigue. Bridging elements of her past projects- the damaged romanticim of the lo-fi folk outfit Mouse and the Love & Light Orkestra and the feral intensity of the wall-of-noise acolytes Shoppers, to create something that’s extremely representative of the trials Graves has faced throughout her personal life and her professional career.
I make that last claim with the benefit of knowing Meredith, who has consistently remained one of this site’s most avid supporters since the outset of the project, and her empathetic ideals. “Took the Ghost to the Movies”, more than anything else she’s done, has reminded me of specific moments that I’ve been fortunate enough to have with Graves. Whether it be letting an interview devolve into a Skype hangout session, letting our brains melt into nothingness on a small hammock in the middle of Pitchfork last year, the way she greeted me at NXNE when I showed up (relatively) unannounced in another country, NXNE’s tensest moment, staying up forever on Jes Skolnik’s couch waiting for food to be delivered, spending a summer lost in a cavalcade of exchanged calls and messages, or trading solo demos of new songs in an effort of encouragement to lessen the burden of the near-herculean task she was faced with while coming up with songs for her solo project.
All of those moments are present once again when I play through “Took the Ghost to the Movies” (something I’ve done more than 10 times at this point) but the one that sticks out most is the demo exchange. One of those demos stands out clearest. Having never heard any of Graves’ rawer material it was almost startling to hear a song coming from her stripped back to its barest essentials (nothing but acoustic guitar and vocals). The song itself was a serene ambient folk number with multitracked vocals that was devastating in its tranquility. It was a song I took with me; listening to it in secret through headphones on road trips or out in places where bodies of water met land and rock(s). Several storms were soundtracked by that small, humble recording throughout the summer and listening to it always felt like a warm embrace from a friend.
That song would become “Took the Ghost to the Movies”.
In its original stage, “Took the Ghost to the Movies” was entirely unexpected and inexplicably gorgeous. Over the past year, the song’s morphed into a sprawling beast of a song, finding its identity in a heavy shoegaze bent that was only hinted at in Shoppers. Opening with a gentle misdirect, “Took the Ghost to the Movies” suddenly unloads a series of brutal snare hits that sound like a slow-motion machine gun while a sprawling, dense, ambient guitar creates an atmosphere that’s both impossibly ominous and completely reassuring. In the SPIN feature where the track premiered, Graves brings up her appreciation for My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Nothing, and the dichotomies that earned each of those bands their vaunted reputations (and, in My Bloody Valentine’s case, legendary stature) are reflected to some degree in Graves’ first outing bearing only her name.
Graves has endured a vile resistance that’s still (infuriatingly) the common norm when a powerful non-male voice emerges and is willing to fight for things that matter (just look at any of BrooklynVegan’s comment threads on literally any post involving Perfect Pussy or Graves for further proof). With that fight and those experiences come burdens. Regret, self-doubt, sadness, anger, frustration, and a whole host of other inherently difficult barricades to happiness. Fortunately, Graves’ skin is thick and she’s been able to find contentment, happiness, and- more often than not- vindication. It’s something that Graves’ troubled past has prepared her for and it factors into why she resists the things she finds harmful. It’s also how she can create things that sound as formidable (and as damaged) as “Took the Ghost to the Movies”.
Returning to guitar for the first time since Shoppers seems to have reinvigorated Graves’ quieter aggression. In Perfect Pussy, she’s allowed to be uninhibited in her presentation of that aggression thanks to unrestricted motion and an emphasis on, well, emphasis. For “Took the Ghost to the Movies”, the reintroduction of guitar has allowed her to tap into something otherworldly that enhances the atmosphere rather than punctuating the reasons it exists. It’s a subtle change of pace but it suits the song incredibly well, even as the drums threaten to destroy everything (and, in turn, create a slow-burn tension that propels the song into stunning territories). While Graves’ vocals are still buried, so is some of the pain that they illustrate. Not everyone that’s faced the things Graves has faced has made it out to tell those stories; it’s only natural that some of it’s a little more hidden than expected.
Triumphant, defiant, and inescapable, “Took the Ghost to the Movies” is as boldly confident as anything Graves (always and forever this site’s patron saint) has done, and it provides no shortage of hope for the songwriter’s future endeavors. Uncompromising and defined by slivers of hope in the midst of a surprisingly bleak landscape, the song gives Kevin Devine a lot to compete with for his side of the split.
Pre-order Devinyl Splits No. 2 from Bad Timing here and listen to the final cut of “Took the Ghost to the Movies” below. Underneath the embed, revisit a collection of photographs of Graves that have previously run on this site in conjunction with this site’s coverage of Perfect Pussy. Enjoy (and don’t hesitate on that pre-order).