Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)

As I am writing this there are tears in my face. I am listening to the song “When Water Comes to Life” from Cloud Cult‘s latest album “Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)”. I don’t know if it’s the sad violin riffs or the lyrics that make me cry, or maybe both. The song was written by the Cloud Cult’s main singer/songwriter, Craig Minowa, for his lost young son. Actually, the whole album is about dealing with that loss. This is one of the few albums that I pay extra attention to the lyrics.

Also, this is one of the best albums I have ever listen to in my life. It is one of the most different albums I have ever encountered. It is experimental alright, but in a good way — it’s actually listenable. It wakes up weird feelings in me, something that other albums just don’t. It accesses weird parts of my brain that other artistic works don’t. Some critics have compared the Cloud Cult to Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire, but I think that the Cloud Cult are one step beyond them with this album. The Flaming Lips’ best album, the “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”, sounds self-indulgent compared to this album, and Arcade Fire’s both albums just feel “indie rock with a twist” instead. In fact, I *don’t* like the previous albums of Cloud Cult as much as this one, exactly because they were also “indie rock with a twist”. This album instead is more twist than indie rock, but without losing its solid harmony and melody. It is musically complex with many genres popping up in a single song (including classical, rock, hip-hop, electronic, folk), sometimes there’s no repeating chorus, and in general, the songs don’t follow the buildup-chorus/rinse-repeat pattern found on most pop songs. Some critics didn’t get the album at all, but the ones who did, put it up on their list of their top-10 albums of last year, along Blitzen Trapper’s “Furr” (another crazy/good album)! This is the kind of music that people will be listening to in the year 2030.

“Feel Good Ghosts” is of course not for everybody. It’s like sushi. You can’t just “like” sushi when you are over 25 years old and you are tasting it for the first time (like in my case). 95% chance is that you will hate it. Sushi grows on you though. You will have to “get it” to “like it”. Without “getting it”, there’s no “liking it”. Same with this album, you will have to be in the right state of mind, and yes, with the right cultural background to really appreciate it. Best songs in the album: Everybody Here Is a Cloud (free), The Tornado Lessons (free), When Water Comes to Life (also free), Its What You Need (I wish it was longer than its mere 1′:07″), Hurricane and Fire Survival Guide, and Love You All. The rest are also good, but they require extra brain power. But of course, in this specific case, it’s about listening to the whole album, not just a few songs.

The weirdness of the band doesn’t stop in the music though. Check this out:
– Craig Minowa lives in his organic farm, somewhere so far inland that there are no maps (the MTV crew had trouble finding him when they were trying to do a feature for the band).
– He uses recyclable materials for most of his belongings, along geothermal energy rather than electricity.
– His non-profit label uses recycled materials for its CDs and donates all its profits to charity.
– For every 1000 CDs sold, the band plants 10 trees, to absorb any pollutants that their manufacturing might have introduced.
– The band uses a biodiesel van, and it has solar panels on top of it.
– The band also has non-musicians: two painters. They paint while the band is playing live, and then they auction the paintings on the spot.
– This is the last Cloud Cult album, possibly ever. The band members will now focus on family, they said.

JBQ tonight asked me to buy “Use somebody” by Kings of Leon (a popular hit rock song) on iTunes. I was in the midst of listening to the Cloud Cult tonight when I loaded up the iTunes Store to buy the song he requested. I previewed it, as I always do. And while I like rock music a lot, and I like the particular song too, while previewing it amidst the Cloud Cult’s listening session, I felt that I was purchasing some shallow, flat, bad-taste, kits Britney Spears crap. And I even like Kings of Leon.

Once you go Cloud Cult (and sushi), you can’t go back. True story.

1 Comment »

nm wrote on May 1st, 2009 at 2:20 PM PST:

Thanks for sharing.

Me too, when I’m in the right state of mind I sometimes have the intense feeling of really understanding the song. But after listening to it for two times, it’s away – I hate that.
You can’t repeat it because you’re expecting it when you know it.

The Tornado Lessons and When Water Comes to Life “got me”, maybe I’m too young for the others 🙂

Sorry for my English, I don’t know if it’s all correct…

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