EP Review: Spirit Houses Show the Intricacies of Pain on ‘Two Passing Ships’

Spirit Houses © 2018
‘Two Passing Ships’ shows Spirit Houses (Mike Ireland of I Am The Avalanche) displaying how pain can come in many forms.

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The image of two passing ships is a melancholic symbol of the meaninglessness of life. Much like the modern definition of the word “sonder,” we all are these passing vessels that experience things in a beautiful but separate way. This makes Spirit Houses’ Two Passing Ships an aptly titled album. The solo project from Mike Ireland of I Am The Avalanche is described as the worst year of Ireland’s life, and while the problems that arise from this may not be solved, there is often a sense of optimism that comes with hopelessness.

Two Passing Ships - Spirit Houses

Two Passing Ships – Spirit Houses

Two Passing Ships is built on acoustic guitars, but Ireland fleshes out the sound with touches of acoustic guitars and drums that make the album feel more fully realized than past recordings. The simplistic nature really brings Ireland’s emotions to the forefront.Spirit Houses has been Ireland’s outlet, but this really shows him spreading his wings as a songwriter. “Death Was a Naked Sword” is one of the songs that really emphasizes struggles with addiction and the tumultuous relationships that come with it.

I hope you’re not too mad at me
One drink with friends turned into ten 

It’s a simple instrumental where Ireland really allows himself to be confessional. You can hear the weight of the year when he sings,

I really want to do better
I want to drink less, too.
It’s hard when I never knew you 

“Death Was a Naked Sword” is a fitting conclusion to the EP as the penultimate song, where “An Open Letter to My Future Love” serves as an epilogue.


Two Passing Ships is a lively record that dances with its gray subject matter. “Nightmares Every Night” is a folk song with bite. Ireland can sing lines like, “Everything dies if it never grows/We did our best to save it” sweetly, but erupts in a chorus that’s an expulsion of the nightmares he’s singing about. “Inn on Ursulines” is a midtempo punk song, which despite being one of the EP’s weaker songs, is incredibly driving. “We All Die Alone” along with “Nightmares” is sure to be a fan favorite, as it draws inspiration from the type of Irish folk you’d associate with a crowded bar.

Despite being a document of a year, songs like “Perfect Irish Stout” and the final track “An Open Letter…” show Ireland pragmatically looking forward to the future. The former sees him singing about what he’d like for his future children and what he’s thankful for in his life now. He sings, “I hope I’m not too sad when I get old.” No matter how bad your current situation may seem, there’s usually some sense that the future will be better, and the unselfish desire to want to be a little less sad is relatable to anyone who’s felt this way. On “Open Letter,” Ireland speaks directly to a prospective partner. There’s romantic imagery of holding hands and sharing a life. On a track that only gets bigger as it goes, Ireland sings,

I’m brain dead
I’m broken
I’m bruised
And I truly have nothing to offer you.
I’m addicted to alcohol and pills.

It pairs well with “Perfect Irish Stout.” Where “Stout” is fondly looking forward to the future, “Open Letter” shows that sometimes issues persist and there is always work to be done. Sometimes, even meeting someone you love, you’ll still feel broken and bruised a lot of the time.

Even though Spirit Houses’ Mike Ireland describes Two Passing Ships as a product of the worst year of his life, it is an EP with enough nuisance to explore the many emotions that come with a worst year. There is a lot of pain, but so many of these songs have bounce or optimism. The title suggests that sometimes we pass one another and don’t understand the weight someone may carry, but Ireland has showed us he’s not just a vessel.

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:: purchase Two Passing Ships here ::

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Two Passing Ships - Spirit Houses

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James is a writer, currently in Human Resources at The New York Times. Besides Atwood, he's contributed to SensationsPress.com and his own blog BurgerADay.com. In his free time, James also writes poetry, performs stand-up comedy, listens to more podcasts than he can keep up with, and can be found floating around shows in New York City's punk scene.