San Francisco’s Dirty Ghosts
is the vehicle of singer and guitarist Allyson Baker, formerly guitarist of the blues-rock unit Parchman Farm. Here, she swaps the guitar for a mic, taking on lead vocalist duties in full. There are several promising songs on the project’s debut record, Metal Moon
, but the overall incongruity keeps it from landing much more than just above average. Despite being a veteran in the music scene, she’s a rookie in this new role, which quickly becomes clear.
Dirty Ghosts’ producer (and Baker’s husband) Aesop Rock does a great job of filtering the several different styles on display here into one mostly cohesive cluster of tracks, something a lesser talent might have left feeling more scattershot. Things are the most interesting when the producer’s hip-hop background takes a prominent seat in the blend. The funky, electronic “Steamboat to Concord” has Baker singing alone over cold, dry drum and turntable loops. Her vocals are the most organic piece of the song.
“Shout It In” is a similarly digital, New Wave-y jaunt, with her delivery standing out stronger than it does elsewhere on the record. “Battle Slang” rides the samples hard, beginning with a police siren before coasting on background vocals from what sounds like a children’s choir.
Much of the record, however, is more straightforward riff ‘n’ rumble rock. Of these, “19 in ’71” is the highlight, with a propulsive drumbeat and crunching guitar that helps push Baker’s growl into Joan Jett territory. Unfortunately, little of the rest is catchy enough to embed itself in your mind after a handful of spins. Though she is getting close, Baker isn’t an engaging enough singer yet to carry the lesser songs on her vocal skills alone.
Essential Tracks: “Steamboat to Concord”, “19 in ’71”