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Album Review: Good Bison “Ghost On Mulholland”

“After being driven off the road by the ghost, running through the dark desert and stumbling upon a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, our protagonist finds a secluded beach with a fire already burning. Although he knows the ghost cannot be far behind, he simply can’t resist the call of the flames and the pounding of the bass. Dancing, drinking, and blinded by lights, he fails to notice the eerie orange glow creeping into the edges of the scene.”

Good Bison returns with a new, conceptualized EP, Ghost On Mulholland, which portrays a R.L. Stine/Goosebumps-inspired narrative of the protagonist’s flight from a ghost who has haunted him all his life. Following the theme of a self-penned short story, all five tracks chronicle the artist’s journey fleeing from his past. Good Bison is the musical project of Pablo Alvarez and Abraham Mendez (Abes). Alvarez says of the EP’s conceptualization, “Early on, the image of a ghost on the beach attached itself to the music in my mind and refused to let go. I already knew the record was meant to be a journey, so I started writing a ghost story that mirrored the EP track by track.”

The EP’s opening track, “10 Min Away,” offers a summery, psychedelic rock meditation on the pains of dealing with personal insecurities. With a swaying chorus and pulsing energy, the track is tempered by fuzzed-out guitar solos and hooks to bring levity and excitement. It’s a great introduction to the album, although by the end remains the standout track of the bunch. “Better Lies” follows with a pop-punk essence and rap rhythm, as he spits out lyrics with an addicting flow. Dealing with the anguish of denying internal pain (“These arguments inside my head they could be televised. No worries, I’m all good, my smile is one of my better lies”) is a concept in which many can relate.

The EP’s lead single, “Can’t Waste This High,” oozes with a synth beat, funky guitar leads, and a catchy chorus that repeats “Life is so amazing/I don’t want to waste this high”. The repetitive lyrics serve as a desperate attempt to escape the ghost’s looming presence via immersion in utter bliss, even when it’s fleeting. The track contains the least amount of lyrics of any Good Bison song ever, symbolizing the the utter simplicity and joy of the moment. Sonically taking the form of sun-soaked indie rock, there is often an underlying darker edge to match the ghost story at play. Playing with a mixture of live instrumentation and electronic elements, Good Bison maintains a signature style of easy-going sounds combined with his unique, fast paced hip-hop delivery that’s previously brought him acclaim. There are moments that call on early 2000s rock, like Weezer’s The Blue Album and even Blink-182 (“Better Lies”). 

The Latin influenced “Haunting” opens with a moody strum of guitar and drum beat that quickly transitions into a Bossa Nova-style cadence. The song oscillates with eerie gusts, sparse guitar, and sudden, disquieting synth swells that situate the listener directly in the dialogue of the ghost story. “Tell me what you want from me/ Tell me what you need/ Baby why you haunting me/ You said you’d set me free,” the narrator asks the spirit in a moment of desperation. Punctuated by a jam breakdown full of Spanish flare, the song shifts to feature Alvarez singing in Spanish for the first time on the EP, embracing his Colombian heritage. 

The closing track “I’m Tired of Waiting Come On Home” reflects the protagonist’s exhaustion, while exuding a sense of comfort. Here, the haunting seemingly ends, allowing space for reflection with a relaxing guitar riff. A fitting finale, lyrically the track also embeds references to the opener and the journey in which the narrator has been on (“You know how bad traffic gets in L.A/ I always swear I’m ten minutes away”). There is no urgency reflected in the music, despite lyrics that document the passing of time. “I’m on the road but I’m still seven exits away” is sung as vocal layering builds into the finale, exploding in a medley of percussion, trumpets, guitar, synth and beautiful melodies. 

“People have a tendency to be extremely hard on themselves, myself included. We criticize, judge, and attack ourselves without reservation. We celebrate the success of others and ignore our own wins,” Alvarez concludes about the  themes in his new music. “[We] chastise our shortcomings and belittle our hardships. And I don’t think that’s okay, so I’ve been trying to be nicer while still holding myself accountable. There is no right path. Trust yourself. You’re doing great, even when you’re forced off the road by a ghost only you can see.”

Everyone lives with a haunting of some kind. While this ghost’s shape never takes form, it is left up to listener interpretation of how this haunting assimilates. As a far off inspiration for the EP’s context, the collection of songs never directly reach the heights of a full-blown chill-inducing haunt. Good Bison’s mellow indie soundscapes trump any outwardly scary musings, making each track a pleasant listen while not fully leaning into the noted ghostly narrative. Ghost On Mulholland won’t give you any nightmares, but Good Bison’s intentions are a fun creative endeavor. Ghost On Mulholland is out everywhere today.

Good Bison Online: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Spotify | Apple Music

About Emma Furrier

Boston-based music writer and reviewer. Passionate about rock and roll, vinyl collecting, and any dog I’ve ever met.

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