Imagine if Battles and A Lull had an illegitimate child, who was then abandoned into the wilderness. Who, according to fellow writer Jimmy Roxy, adopted the vocals of the Beach Boys. Eventually, should the child emerge and successfully avoid becoming Victor of Aveyron, you’d get Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Ghost Heart. Oh. And a timpani…that they tour with. It’s hard to nail down who exactly does what, as all four share vocal and percussion duties, and three deal in guitars. Does it matter much? Nah, because regardless it’s a journey.
The comparisons to Vampire Weekend are not apparent when “Phantom Harmony” begins, or even throughout the rest of the album. Vampire Weekend write quick, digestible pop songs you’d go towards with a short attention span for a quick emotional rush. Ghost Heart is far from it. Sure, the singing is higher, with a bit of backing as support, but there’s no focus on chorus/verse/chorus structure. It’s a leisure trip that quivers and wanders to a fuzzy drone…for three straight minutes. When the timpani swiftly flies in to accompany, the song truly starts-as does the rest of The Tunnel.
The comparisons to Animal Collective are, however, apparent. Although it seems to be for lack of a better way to describe the group. “No Canticle” is heavy on percussion, little on cymbals, which is exactly what A Lull focuses on and does extraordinarily well. There’s a subtle buzz that, honestly, distracts heavily despite wanting to focus on the group’s singing and tribal-esque drumming. All I could think of is some problem in recording. It’s forgivable for the album, but returns once again on the album closer, “Human Elements.”
Ghost Heart challenges songs, not really adopting a predictable structure other than long building crescendos that may opt to peak, or just drift along with no foresight. Props, because it can be dragging if overused as Mumford & Sons have done. “Salty Sea” is one of these songs that just floats along. The singer’s voice is exactly that of Donivan Berube of Blessed Feathers, it’s shocking. And since the average true track length is over 5 minutes, this normal duration song of 3:38 feels much like an intermission to a decrepit vaudeville show on its last legs-and you don’t ever want to tear your attention away. Never fear though, as “Black Air” brings in a minimalistic collective chant, well arranged with highs and lows that is easy to find yourself entranced into joining in.
The attraction is subtle for The Tunnel. You can’t quite tell what’s drawing you into it, and you don’t need to listen closely to be taken. It’s an effortless listen, the best kind. The subversive kind. Grand Rapid’s quartet doesn’t have to bang you over the head to get your attention…they already have it. You just haven’t realized you’ve been possessed till it’s too late.