Spookyghostboy is the project of Nashville Tennessee songwriter Austin Thomas, named after it’s slight variation to lofi indie pop — “ghost pop”. A haunting yet beautiful sound graces the tracks of his latest release, smile when I see you smile.
These are the kind of heartfelt songs you would expect out of modern indie pop. Listening to this feels like flipping through memories of love, friends and the everyday moments and relationships that form around them. Thomas nails the somber and calming aesthetic completely, with a songwriting style that’s very easy to empathize with. The unique selling point of this act is the cold and misty sound that wraps around each song like the embrace of a chilly night. Soft melodies and an overall slow tempo makes his reverbed vocals and riffs stand out like ghosts hovering over the mix. This effect is so consistent through smile when I see you smile that it’s not uncommon for you to have one or two goosebumps per minute.
Opener “flashlight” has a slow and melancholic melody that calms you down to the overall pace of the album. Thomas juxtaposes light and shadow in the song, resolving to brighten up the lives of everyone he loves. Once you dive deep through his lyricism it’s hard not to get hooked in. In “this is a motto” he sings about a troubled friend as he helps him look for a new apartment while he’s going through a tough time with their family.
Along with crooning riffs that slightly bend off-tune to elicit the feeling of unease, Thomas also infuses his synths with a slide guitar or theremin-like effect. These sounds really give weight to the mood of each song. In “feeling like a landslide”, it gives it a staggered descending movement that mimics anxiety and stress when the world just doesn’t feel right. The theremin is more pronounced in “eyepatch”, which gives off a dissonant presence to an otherwise pleasant acoustic track. As a result the track feels like it’s stuck in between tension and release, ending in a blurred melancholy.
Other highlights include “yr face”, which talks about a falling out with a friend to a point where the relationship feel like it’s slipping away: “Let’s meet, I think we could use a little time / when I close my eyes, can’t see your face.” The gloomy “Blank slate” runs at almost five mins and centers on how hard it is to apologize to someone, while still pushing through it either way.
Smile when I see you smile is cold catharsis compiled into sonic form. Like a hot cup of tea, no matter what mood you’re in, this will surely calm you down and make you feel better.