Stepping into the new year with some quality easy-listening in a genre-less format, the L.A. musicians forming Good Bison have something fresh for you. Dropped on February 21st, the eerie EP Ghost on Mulholland changes up the group’s previous sound a little, channeling that retro-alternative vibe that gripped us all in our younger days.
The five-song collection is musically diverse, and each track lyrically tells a separate tale that all come together as one in the end. A
super synthy, alt-rock album with a dash of of hip-hop sprinkled in and the melodic story of a “ghost” following a hungry musician written by Pablo Alvarez and Abraham Mendez (Abes).
Up first, “10 Minutes Away” gives an insight to the mental obstacles that Alvarez faces on his journey through life. Sometimes your own mind can work against you, and to be self-aware of your own insecurities without the ability to change your course makes for a tough time to move forward. I enjoyed soaking up the message of pushing through it and still making the best attempt you can, despite the environment your brain can create for you. The tune has a beat that makes you wanna snap your fingers to it, and towards the end you might wanna tune your air guitar for the shredding solo!
“Better Lies” continues the smooth alt-rock theme, fusing in some of that fast-paced hip-hop flavor that Good Bison has shown us in previous albums. Playing somewhat off the first song, lyrically there’s a feel of an internal battle. Pablo seems to describe wearing a face that doesn’t match the feelings deep inside of him; a masking of the true feelings to keep up that happy appearance, “These arguments inside my head, they could be televised / no worries, I’m all good, my smile’s one of my better lies.” I think we have all told that lie a time or two…
The middle track breaks things up a little with a synthy, interlude-style offering. Having minimal lyrics by Alvarez, Agustin Mas takes the stage and lets his guitar sing on “Can’t Waste This High”. With an exquisite mixture of digital and live instrumentation, it would live comfortably on the same station as MGMT’s “Electric Feel”.
The scene is now set for the “Haunting”… the fourth and spookiest of all the ghostly tracks in this collection. This one oozes with latin flavor and even houses Pablo’s first spanish verse in any recording thus far. I get a sense of frustration with desire. The fear of losing what he loves and surrendering to whatever that may be, in an attempt to ease his mind of the anguish that will surely follow. Starting off with a slow burn, the latin tempo speeds up towards the end, building a sense of excitement and anticipation.
The final cut on the album, “I’m Tired of Waiting, Come on Home” is the end of the ghost story, and it feels as so. The tone of the song is way more relaxed, reminding me of the end of a horror movie when the protagonist is safe and sound the next morning, after a hellish night of survival. Perseverance wins in this story set to a mellow acoustic guitar-based melody, airy riffs and soft lyrics.
I wanted to get a feel for how the album came about so I caught up with Pablo Alvarez, the voice behind Good Bison. Here’s a little insight straight from the source:
Recording musicians usually write their life down on paper and deliver it to the masses for their judgment in the form of an album. No pressure there! On February 21st you’re set to drop another one – a 5 song EP titled Ghost on Mulholland – 2023’s first offering of Good Bison.
Tell me where your head is right now?
- Good Bison: It still doesn’t seem real. I’ve lived with this music for so long now that in some ways it feels like a very personal and private thing. I’m super excited to finally be able to share it with people, but I also tend to get caught up thinking about what comes next. Although it’s important for me to keep moving, I want to give this moment the time and attention it deserves.
I’m loving this “no-genre” music culture that seems to be spreading. You have a strong hip-hop background, and this new EP has more of a 90’s/2000’s synth-y, alternative vibe. I’ve seen in the past where artists have been somewhat ousted by fans when attempting to switch genres up, now it seems to thrive. What do you think has changed?
- I think it all depends on how you go about it. Those switch ups need to come from a genuine place. Artists have been breaking down the walls between genres for a long time. The Beatles completely transformed their sound, multiple times, in under a decade. Prince experimented with, and mastered, multiple styles of music.
Let’s talk about the theme of the album, it’s quite unique. I understand there is a nod to Goosebumps author R.L. Stine in there. What was the strongest contributing factor to the creation of the ghost story narrative carried throughout the EP?
- Before we knew the EP was a ghost story, we knew it was a journey. It felt like we were going somewhere. At the time, we didn’t realize it, but we were actually running away. The ghost was always there, but it didn’t fully start taking shape until around the time we were working on “Haunting”. It’s strange because at no point did it feel like a conscious decision to center the narrative around the ghost. It just happened.
A successful release usually has a team of people involved, and I couldn’t help but notice that Lllamabeats member, George Spits, had a hand in this project. He’s mixed for the likes of Slightly Stoopid, ¡MAYDAY!, Wrekonize, Kendall Morgan and BARTMAN! What’s the story behind him coming aboard for this collection of tracks?
- George Spits is a Miami legend. I’ve been a fan of his since I first heard his band Llamabeats, they’re local legends. He moved to LA a couple of years after I did and we linked up there. He was a huge part of the “Scattered Storms” project, so going into this one I knew I wanted to work with him again. He always understands what I’m going for and has a way of taking it to the next level.
Piggy-backing off the last question, there are many folks involved in the process of making music. Who else deserves special thanks for their contributions to the release of Ghost on Mulholland?
- There is no way this record would’ve happened without Abe Mendez. Not only did we write all of these songs together, he was also the EP’s lead producer, recording engineer, he handled the initial mixes, and we’ve been working on the live set too. Abe has been the glue throughout this entire process. There’s obviously George Spits, who handled additional production, mixing and mastering, but there’s also Agustin Mas on lead guitar and Sebastian Delgado on drums/backing vocals. There’s so many incredible musicians who contributed to this; AJ, Joe, Ale, Tegan, and honestly more. On the visual side, everything has been possible because of Estefania Krol, director of Krolhaus. She’s an absolute master of her craft and she was the one responsible for truly bringing the ghost to life.
Good Bison seems to be enjoying the music, all types of it. This latest release accentuates its ability to flow into different genres and make great tunes while still being true to self. Now go experience the ghost for yourself! Ghost on Mulholland is streaming everywhere now!
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.