Ryan Alfred and Katherine Byrnes combine to create Sweet Ghosts, an Americana/folk band that features sweet harmonies and a lush and mesmerizing sound. Ahead of next week's show at Club Congress, Alfred talked to the Weekly about the albums that have haunted him...
With Amor Deluxe at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 8 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. $10. 21+.
Far Beyond Driven
This was the first album that I ever had a visceral, emotional connection with. I bought it before ever hearing it solely because kids I had made friends with in my new school district were wearing Pantera shirts, ironic for a band that had such a strong non-conformist message. I remember putting the cassette on with my mom in the mall parking lot, and both of us staring at the console, totally overwhelmed by it. Ben Lisbet (our violinist) and I still listen to it all the time.
An interest in drugs took me into the mid-'90s rave world, where I discovered I actually really did like dance music, despite my misguided prejudices against electronic music. This record, first listened to at some stranger's dingy apartment at 5 a.m. after a rave, was the first dance record I heard that employed thoughtful composition arcs and great melodic writing alongside electronic music's potential for creating otherworldly sonic environments. I still reference the sound design ideas on this record, even in far calmer and even mainly acoustic projects.
The Essential Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson was probably the first songwriter I listened to that made me interested in lyrics. The first cut on this album is "Sunday Morning Coming Down" I woke up Sunday morning/with no way to hold my head that didn't hurt...fumbled through my closet for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt.... The earthy realness of his lyrics spoke to me, like he had been observing my life and writing about it.
Conan The Barbarian OST
This is a strange little backwater of cinematic music that I must have listened to 100 times. All the pieces are quite long as film cues go, because the movie was written to have almost no dialog, and consequently, I find the pieces are very narrative, as opposed to a lot of modern writing which I find beautiful but are usually short, concentrated emotions working to amplify scenes. Lots of references to Stravinsky and Brahms, but all in all a pretty unique harmonic and melodic language, and incredibly epic, satisfying pieces.
This is the most recent album to totally floor me. It combines very beautiful chamber music writing with simple, impressionistic sound designs and analog ambiences. On paper, not a terribly unique idea, but this specific expression of that combination moves me tremendously. It was a very big influence when putting together the new Sweet Ghost album, as an example using the album format to create an extended, peaceful, contemplative environment.