Vancouver Underground Heroes Apollo Ghosts Go Widescreen on 'Pink Tiger'

BY Leslie Ken ChuPublished Mar 8, 2022

Apollo Ghosts have long been the beating heart of independent music in Vancouver. Since forming in 2008, they've become renowned for their festive live shows from coast to coast, powered by four LPs and a scattering of EPs, including 2010's Polaris long listed Mount Benson — all with a six-year gap in their tenure, as they disbanded between 2013 and 2019. Three years later, their celebrated comeback has reached a new peak with their most ambitious effort yet, their first double album, Pink Tiger.

The album was written over those three years, which were marked by loss. Singer-guitarist Adrian Teacher's father was dying. Teacher lost hearing in one ear. Nature was hurting from wildfires, land development and resource extraction. But with time, Teacher's hearing returned. He planted trees with his partner Amanda P., who's also Apollo Ghosts' drummer (though Brutal Poodle's Dustin B. has assumed that role live). Their bassist Robbie N. is having a baby this spring. The life cycle goes on.

Pink Tiger reflects the seesawing of life's highs and lows in two distinct sides, evenly split into 11 tracks each. The first, Pink, is comprised of acoustic home recordings that grapple with helplessness and confusion in the wake of loss. Knitting an acoustic melody around piano, "Melatonin 5G" speaks to the album's preoccupation with beginnings and endings: "I severed all my ties / With all the stupid things that went wrong in my life / And I took a trip with some friends." The warm embrace of the title track's piano and acoustic guitar offers all the tenderness of the Mountain Goats' Get Lonely. "All of these comforts / All of these lies and fire pit philosophies / Hoping for answers / Talking with God," a soul-searching Teacher sings, trying to wrap his head around the way the universe works before he musters gratitude and an optimistic outlook: "Friends are family," he sings. "Maybe it's over / Maybe it's not."

Elsewhere, a ragged weariness drapes over Pink. Finger-picking, a steely guitar tone, and a freely flowing melody tinge "Morning Voice" with American Primitivism, though they're offset by evaporating keys. On "Dirty Spoons," Teacher's voice dangles so low that it borders on a Bill Callahan impression; the sparing track even lingers like one of the Smog singer's placid, reflective songs.

For the album's second half, Tiger, Apollo Ghosts enlisted the recording talent of Jordan Koop (Orville Peck, Wolf Parade) at the Noise Floor and the mixing expertise of JC/DC Studios' David Carswell (Destroyer, the New Pornographers). Whereas Pink Tiger's entire first half feels like a long, slow breath — there's a moment on "To Set the King Bloom" when the music winds down to a pause, Teacher inhales deeply, and he begins again, patiently rebuilding the song — "Tiger" boasts energetic guitar rock that mostly looks past grief and toasts the joys of life, namely friendship and music.

Though Tiger contains no chantable anthems, one of Apollo Ghosts' specialties, it packs plenty of catchy moments and the band's other defining characteristics. Teacher continues to spin keen observations into sharp musings. "When you've got fuck all inside you / You'll finally have something to say," he sings on the unhurried "Spilling Yr Guts." And in his hands, nostalgia is never a bad word — like much of Apollo Ghosts' work, Pink Tiger brims with youthful reminiscences and often finds him searching for home. Riding a coast-cool, groove, "Island Kids" encapsulates this spirit and yearning. The song's music video was filmed on Protection Island, which holds a special place in Teacher's heart. The song, he says, is an elegy to a halcyon type of childhood that feels increasingly less common.

Dashed hopes and unrealized ambitions run free in Apollo Ghosts' music. The band usually treats them playfully, without so much as a wistful smile, let alone a defeatist attitude, but their approach is more sobering on Pink's "But I'll Be Around Then (Acoustic Version)" and Tiger's "But I'll Be Around (Electric Version)." "Perfect life will make it happen / Haven't seemed to get there yet," Amanda sings, taking over lead vocals on the acoustic version while Teacher resumes vocal duties on its electric counterpart. But the duo are hopeful, concluding, "Peace of mind / Happens all the time."

Spanning a spectrum of emotions and musical styles, Pink Tiger presents Apollo Ghosts in top form. Adrian Teacher has always been a vivid storyteller, but his openness and frankness on Pink Tiger is unparalleled by the rest of Apollo Ghosts' discography. Even though they don't hit all their usual revelrous notes, they've stretched their canvas and expanded their palette, adding whole new depth to their already venerated repertoire.
(You've Changed Records)

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