Album Review- 10 Years (How to Live) As Ghosts
by Rob Gomez
The alt-rock freight train that is 10 Years is back with a hard rocking new release, (How to Live) As Ghosts, and they are out to prove they’re at the top of their game. The new album, which dropped October 27th, features 11 solid new tracks (plus 3 bonus tracks, if you get the album from Best Buy, which includes alternate takes and a great cover of Nirvana’s classic “Heart-Shaped Box”) that show a band that has grown and reaffirmed their love for the music they playand the guys they play it with. The return of original members Matt Wantland (guitar) and BrianVodinh (drums), as well as the departure of guitarist Ryan “Tater” Johnson, make for a powerful mixture, seeing the band blending their classic formula of introspective alternative rock with a more polished, mature view on life, love, chemical dependence, and self-awareness.
One of the biggest take aways from this album is its use of lead singer Jesse Hasek’s haunting vocals as a sign of strength. His heavily accented words and sensual panting making the album’s lead single “Novacaine” feel just as much a powerful statement as a concerning look at the rampant abuse of prescription pills in our society. Though longtime fans of the band are well aware of the singer’s vocal prowess and powerful control over the tone of the band’s songs, it’s refreshing to hear the vocals upfront and center, as opposed to being drowned out in the mix of crunchy guitar and snare snaps. Hasek’s voice sounds strong, conscious, and even condemning (“Burnout”,) yet still seems to have the same earnest desire to return the listener to some nostalgic happy place. Songs like “Catacombs” and “Halos” harken back to the band’s glory days ala The Autumn Effect, while “Phantoms” could have been a bonus track from Division, the biggest difference being that the new tracks sound, well, NEW. They are a fresh take on what the band has already had success with, and it still works. I find myself riding the emotional waves and dynamics of the underrated guitar riffs and punchy, grooving bass line, just like when I discovered the band over a decade ago.
The song content hasn’t changed much over the years, “Vampires” being a tale of caution about allowing yourself to be used, a common theme with the band over the years. Also present are the songs about self doubt and insecurity ( “Phantoms” and “Burnout”.) The band has a talent for creative, poetic prose set to acoustic musings (“Lucky You”,) and uses its themes fairly conservatively, a sign of the maturity it’s attained since its debut album release back in 2005.You’re not rolling your eyes at the same old whiny, emo lyrics about loneliness and fear because they paint a much better picture than that. The stories behind the songs are relatable, as is the emotion of the author. It’s creative, it’s real, and it rocks. If the album has one flaw, it’s that it is missing the seamless flow of their earlier albums. The spirit is there, but the instrumental transitions and overall mood shifts in the band’s first few albums really seemed like a signature touch, and yet, sadly, are absent from (How to Live) As Ghosts. The album is absent of filler, and yet still seems somewhat jumbled and uneven. The stronger material doesn’t have a chance to breathe without the subtle artistic brush strokes of wandering guitar and echo effects from the abyss. The ability to get someone to drop out of life to just listen and get lost in the music is a quality that 10 Years most certainly possesses, and finding the right order for songs on an album like this is as crucial as making sure chapters of a brilliant novel are in proper order.The album has several songs that could be released as singles on mainstream rock radio. “BloodRed Sky” is almost certainly one of them. Fans of the band’s early work or their creative and emotional shows are sure to love (How to Live) As Ghosts, but new fans also would benefit from giving it a listen. It’s a great starting point, as it showcases the strong roots of a seasoned rock band while still allowing them to evolve as they age. Too many bands get stuck trying to recreate the same album, hoping for the same success they attained when they released it the first time. A timeless band embraces the changes it goes through, or at least finds a way to make them work, and it seem this band is destined to be timeless.