There are those who continue to insist that the album, as a format, is dead. However, with ‘Phantoms’, the successful Canadian pop rock act Marianas Trench prove once again that reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated.
“I think we are going to see more artists releasing singles and not really doing albums anymore,” says songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Ramsay, “but that doesn’t really inspire me.”
What does inspire him is creating a self-contained universe for his songs to exist in, which on ‘Phantoms’ happens to be a house possessed by the spirit of lingering loss and inhabited by somebody who has been driven to madness by the ghost of a former love.
The band drill deeply into the consequences of that loss on the song ‘I Knew You When’, which showcases Ramsay’s staggering vocal range and his group’s ample musical chops in equal measure.
“A lot of love songs look at the easy things,” he continues. “’I Knew You When’ is about having a long history with someone, accepting the faults in each other, acknowledging it’s going to get messy, and still being up for it.”
As on their four previous records, Marianas Trench draw on long-established strengths such as heavily layered harmonies and blazing guitars set against club-worthy beats, although ‘Phantoms’ also finds them pushing their boundaries, both musically and lyrically.
“Each time we do an album, I try and write something that’s out of my vocal reach that forces me to get better,” explains Ramsay, adding that his bandmates – guitarist Matt Webb, bassist Mike Ayley and drummer Ian Casselman – are equally dedicated to stretching their limits.“Once we had the idea that everything was set in a haunted house, it immediately suggested a sonic landscape. So, if it sounded creepy, I’d use it.” Ramsay points to the hauntingly manic ‘Echoes Of You’ (which also features Roger Joseph Manning Jr of Jellyfish) as an example of this. “But, the goal is always to write a set of songs that complement each other, not just go chasing hits.”
Several songs on ‘Phantoms’ stand out as obvious singles, including urgent beat-driven tunes such as ‘Only the Lonely Survive’ and ‘Don’t Miss Me?’ to the borderline power ballad ‘Glimmer’. However, listening to the record in full is the best way for listeners to find the room that suits them best among the many in the house the band has built. From the jaw-dropping a cappella opener, ‘Eleonora’, to the unapologetically epic closer ‘The Killing Kind’, with its deep orchestration, ripping guitars and vocal gymnastics, the sheer emotional weight and brutal honesty displayed on ‘Phantoms’ will leave a lasting impression.
“It’s about messy, real-life love with consequences; the kind of relationship that takes years to build,” Ramsay summarises. “Everybody has that experience, and I think ‘Phantoms’ will allow people to connect their own stories to the ones that we are sharing.”
In addition to forming and fronting Marianas Trench, Josh Ramsay is a successful producer and writer for a wide range of other artists that include Carly Rae Jepsen, 5 Seconds Of Summer, Simple Plan, Faber Drive, Emily Osment and Nickelback. Working primarily out of a studio he owns in Vancouver, he can play 13 instruments and often performs everything on the songs he produces. One of his most successful works is ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepsen, which was nominated for a Grammy.
Find out more about Marianas Trench on their official website.