School of Seven Bells – Ghostory

written by: March 2, 2012
Release Date: February 28, 2012


School of Seven Bells is an up-and-coming dream-pop band from New York City. Sometimes called SVIIB, formerly featuring identical twins as singers, and named after a mythical school for pickpockets, the band has just enough generic, “quirky” hipster-cred to make it to the big time. Unfortunately, that generic attitude also sometimes applies to their music as well, which is pleasant, oftentimes even beautiful, but unfortunately also somewhat forgettable.

Their newest record, Ghostory, is the School of Seven Bells’ third full album, and while it certainly has its charms, it just isn’t engaging enough to pull the audience in the way it needs to.

Part of the problem here lies with the departure of former dual-lead singer Claudia Deheza. Before, her vocals, matched with her twin sisters’, would create a sort of signature echo-y hollow chanting sort of sound. That creepy vibe worked well for the band; it gave them a sort of edge that drew listeners in and told them that this music was something different, dangerous and worth investing in. Now with her departure, the band’s overall sound is much more clean, smooth and refined, and while that might be nice for some, the record as a whole loses a lot of punch.

Still, it is a pretty solid, poppy sound. Just from listening to the album, you’d never guess that School of Seven Bells was just a two-person outfit. Arrangements are lush, building a great dynamic contrast between clean synths and rough guitars. Drums are kept mostly simple, and vocals are very, very smooth and shiny. And while all these elements work as they should, it’s still all too squeaky-clean and spotless to be truly gripping.

On the plus side, there are absolutely no bad songs on this record. The whole thing was designed with a sort of singular aesthetic, and each of its nine tracks pull together nicely around it. Highlights include album opener “The Night” and the slower, atmospheric “Reappear,” among others.

Ghostory is a very difficult album to assign a rating to because some people out there are absolutely going to love it. They will revel in its beauty and bask in its sweeping, multilayered tracks. But almost just as many others won’t get it; they’ll want something with more bite, more edge or more hooks. Both opinions are equally valid, but whether you love Ghostory or just think that it’s just OK will depend on the sort of listener you are and what you hope to gain from your listening experience.

School of Seven Bells – Ghostory tracklist:

  1. “The Night”
  2. “Love Play”
  3. “Lafaye”
  4. “Low Times”
  5. “Reappear”
  6. “Show Me Love”
  7. “Scavenger”
  8. “White Wind”
  9. “When You Sing”
  10. “Unnature”