A Document of Life Itself: Handsome Ghost’s Achingly Introspective Alt-Folk Reverie

Handsome Ghost's self-titled third album, released in August 2023
Handsome Ghost's self-titled third album, released in August 2023
Handsome Ghost’s Tim Noyes and Eddie Byun take us track-by-track through their soul-stirring self-titled third album ‘Handsome Ghost’ – a cinematic, expansive, honest, and achingly vulnerable collection of breathtaking alt-folk songs dwelling in the intimate depths of human experience.
“Heaven Isn’t Long for You” – Handsome Ghost




Handsome Ghost’s third album opens on a moment of heavy reflection.

I’ve been here before, and that’s what’s been holding me back,” Tim Noyes sings, his gentle voice aching in an acoustic haze. “I’m just worried ‘bout forever, and wondering if I miss her pretend… So I’ll keep driving through the dawn break, and fighting against the same fate again.” We all stop to wonder what we’re doing with our lives every so often; better that, than a life on autopilot. A couple of years go by, maybe more, and you pause to take stock of where you are and where you’ve been, and ask all those intimate questions for which there are no simple, easy answers.

Handsome Ghost’s self-titled record is the musical manifestation both of these soul-stirring questions, and of the long journey to their conclusions. It’s a collection of cinematic, expansive, and vulnerable songs dwelling in the depths of human experience – yearning for connection and meaning as we continually figure out who we are, what we’re doing, why we’re here, and – perhaps most importantly of all – if we’re on the right track.

Handsome Ghost - Handsome Ghost album art
Handsome Ghost’s self-titled third album, released in August 2023
And if I come to a crossroads frozen in place
It’s all that I don’t know and what’s slipped away
But I’ve been here before
And that’s what’s been holding me back
I’ll just wait for the summer slowly it comes
I’ve got to remember the cleanse of the sun
But I’ve been here before
Drowning myself in a glass
Yeah I’ve been here before
And that’s what’s been holding me back
I’m just worried bout forever
And wondering if I miss her pretend
So I’ll keep driving through the dawn break
And fighting against the same fate again
– “April Song,” Handsome Ghost

Released August 25, 2023 via Nettwerk Music Group, Handsome Ghost is a breathtakingly beautiful triumph of introspective songwriting and cathartic alt-folk sound. Ethereal yet grounded, cerebral yet anchored, Handsome Ghost’s third album dazzles the ears and seduces the soul as the Massachusetts band process life’s highs and lows – both in real time, and retrospectively.




An Atwood Magazine Editor’s Pick and longtime favorite in our pages, Handsome Ghost have set the bar consistently higher since their debut ten years ago. 2015’s haunting Steps EP, 2016’s The Brilliant Glow EP, 2018’s intimate debut album Welcome Back and 2020’s honest and unfiltered sophomore LP Some Still Morning have all built upon each other, in both obvious and not-so-obvious ways.

Arriving as Handsome Ghost reaches its ten-year mark in the wild (debut single “Blood Stutter” debuted in April 2014), the self-titled Handsome Ghost is the project’s most mature, cohesive, and all-consuming work yet – finding the duo of lead singer/songwriter Tim Noyes and multi-instrumentalist/producer Eddie Byun delving deep, and taking from a decade’s worth of experience – both musical and emotional expression.

Handsome Ghost Find the Beauty in the Cracks on 'To the Place Where We Met Last,' a Hauntingly Human EP

:: TRACK-BY-TRACK ::



“It felt like the right call, the clear move. I think this collection of songs is some of the more honest ones that we’ve written, and the process was very organic,” Tim Noyes, who initially founded Handsome Ghost as his solo project, tells Atwood Magazine. “We were at the time independent, so it was very insulated. Every decision was ours to make, and a lot of the songs are about the band and life in the band, and we’ve been doing it for a long time, so it felt appropriate to call it Handsome Ghost. It’s probably the closest thing to Handsome Ghost we’ve done to this point; the closest to touching the actual band, if that makes sense. In the past I’ve written a million songs and a lot of them are about the effect of the band, like the periphery of the band – relationships, people you meet on the road or recording; I’ve met so many people through the band, and I think this album is addressing head on what it’s like to do this for as long as we have, and the conflicted feelings that you can have around devoting your life to music, essentially.”

He continues, “I’ve had incredible experiences over the years that very few people get to have, but as a result, I have found myself stuck in some sort of partial state of adulthood and I recognize the impact that years in music have had on the other parts of my life. The songs on the album are an examination of those years spent pushing the musical rock up the musical hill, and where it’s all led me. I’m less trying to answer the question of ‘was it all worth it?’ – though, for the record, I think it has been – and more just noting how it all happened, and documenting the good, the bad, and the ugly that I witnessed along the way.”

“It’s always kind of felt like we were chasing something, if that make sense,” Eddie Byun adds. “Like Welcome Back, I think, was still staying in that pop world that The Brilliant Glow was in, but trying to push it closer to something different. And then I think Some Still Morning, there was a lot of trying to force things and it started out with a vision for a sound that was like a trudge of a record. And with this one, we had these songs, so let’s work on them and do what we like. It just felt very smooth and very honest. We weren’t trying to do anything but make the record, which was refreshing.”

Handsome Ghost © Seb Keefe
Handsome Ghost © Seb Keefe



From the moment album opener “April Song” starts, Handsome Ghost acts as a mirror held up to Tim Noyes’ world – one literally (and metaphorically) reflecting memories and moments from a near, yet distant past.

“There was a long time where I had one foot in and one foot out of being a musician. It was always like this temporary chapter in my life, ’cause for most people it is very temporary,” Noyes admits. “So I think it’s an acknowledgement that this has become my life’s work here. It’s been most of my adult life that I’ve been playing in bands, and Handsome Ghost is the longest of any of my projects. I think on the lyrics side, it’s really just trying to figure out, like, ‘Am I happy about that?’ Yeah, I think I am. But it’s kind of answering that question and going back through the past a little bit. It’s just a record about all these trials and tribulations over 10+ years in this band.”

Making Handsome Ghost was a collaborative process, where Noyes would often bring a half- or fully-fleshed out idea to Byun and together, the two would build out the song and bring its world to life.

“I think one thing that we’ve never really talked as much about is how important Tim’s ear as a producer has been to the sound of Handsome Ghost through the years,” Eddie Byun says. “The batch of demos for the bulk of this record, they’re just really, really powerful, and they set the groundwork that pushed the record forward – especially some of the vocal layering on those demos. That was a lot of the base of what we worked off of. So as far as cohesion of sound, a lot of that just comes straight from the very, very beginning, before I was involved in the songs. Generally, it takes us a long time to finish a song, but we’ll get basically the entire record at 75% done and then we’ll go through and do a pass on each song to make things stick together even more with little production tricks or ideas or things like that to have that theme as well. I think those things make it cohesive in that way.”

Handsome Ghost © Seb Keefe
Handsome Ghost © Seb Keefe



Highlight abound throughout these eleven tracks, half of which were released on last spring’s To the Place Where We Met Last EP – a comforting “precursor”-type record that enabled Handsome Ghost to extend their album cycle and give more songs their moment in the spotlight. The heartfelt and hauntingly beautiful “Heaven Isn’t Long for You” remains one of the record’s brightest sparks: The track gently picks apart the concept of heaven, or some kind of perfect paradisiacal place, through a smile-inducing soundtrack of warm, spirited, harmony-rich acoustic folk complete with banjo, mandolin, tambourines, acoustic and electric guitars. It’s an undeniably infectious singalong blending the sweet with the bittersweet, the delicate with the tender – which has admittedly been (and remains) one of Handsome Ghost’s strongest qualities.

Sky true blue, time doesn’t move
I’ve been living this way for a while
Five star meals and baseball fields
Well pour a drink and we’ll kill some time
Down to the river bend
Down there I couldn’t swim for my life
Dive deep the highest height
Look now I’m swimming the butterfly
And in the evening glow, the day is slow to end
Not a cloud for a miles and what a time it has been
But now I wanna feel the rain
I wanna feel the rain again




The heavy, angst and overdrive-fueled “Figure 8” is billed as “a day out with Elliott Smith.” Like a watched pot of water, the song yearns to spill, yet never quite does; the tension rises, rises, and rises, leaving us with an ache in our hearts and a pit in our stomachs. The achingly expressive, enchantingly ethereal “Neptune” cuts to the core; with a sonic likeness to Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, Julien Baker’s Little Oblivions, and some early aughts Death Cab for Cutie, the heavy, atmospheric, and smoldering song unveils a story of intimate connection, uncertainty, and disconnect. All the while, Noyes and Byun create a musically intimate world with a visceral weight and haunting, melodically charged sound. It’s turbulent, disruptive, and utterly enthralling: A heartfelt and heated experience for the mind and body alike.

For Noyes, the marvel of this album is how much its songs have stuck with him. Some of the lyrics on Handsome Ghost are several years old, yet while his perspective has changed considerably in that time, the songs themselves retain their depth – applying in new ways to him and his world today.

“Some of these songs have an entirely different meaning to me now than they did when I wrote them,” Noyes says, “Like particularly ‘Even on the Darkest Days,’ which is, if not my favorite, pretty close. The message still works; it’s still what I want to say, but even for me, the context of that has changed a lot. And I find that interesting… For that song in particular, your priorities change over the years and I think, for a long time, the most important thing to me was trying to break through and have this career in music that was tunnel vision. The song was originally about the trials and tribulations of playing music. And now, it’s been a long time, there’s been tough times here and there, and I think now it’s more about just getting through life and continuing to look at things positively. Not to get too heavy here, life is still good no matter what, that kind of thing. If you’re still here, you’re in good shape. So it is more perspective on what’s important… The music thing, yeah, I’d love to sell out stadiums, but I don’t really care. There’s more important things in the world.”

“I think that generally holds true for the record,” Byun says, continuing on that vein of thought. “A lot of these songs on their face can be like, ‘Oh, this is about that.’ Like this is about the band and about music, but a lot of those things, it’s just a different life path, it’s not like a person-defining thing; all the shit that you deal with, think about, and try to grow past is pretty universal. It’s interesting to me that ‘Darkest Days’ went from being about the band to Tim about being a personal thing. I think there’s a lot of that, even ‘Tiny Cracks & Pieces,’ which I think is pretty on the nose. The story about the band, it’s just about trying to keep on even when it gets really tough. And there’s, I think, things about life in all the songs, even if some of them seem like they might not be.”

Well I came to this place in the heat
when the sun won’t forgive you it beats
I’m still on my feet
Though I stumble and sway
This world is so sweet
Even on the darkest days




Handsome Ghost © Seb Keefe
Handsome Ghost © Seb Keefe



In one way or another, Handsome Ghost is a remarkable document of life itself.

It’s the life of a band over these past ten years, as well as the lives of those individuals who make up said band. It’s the ebbs and flows of the vital tide, those waves that wash over us and through us, change us, and make us who we are.

And it’s all told through a compelling lens of moody, moving, and masterful alternative folk. Handsome Ghost’s songs fall like thick blankets on the ears, the heart, and the soul.

“I think it’s another reminder, or an affirmation that we want to keep making music together. It was an enjoyable experience through and through, so it’s just kind of a reminder that we’ve got more to say and more to make,” Tim Noyes shares. “Honestly, I’d love for the listener to have a connection where they want to throw this song while cruising through the mountains, or throw your headphones in on the subway. Whatever it is, that’s what we’re shooting for, and that actually warms my heart.”

“I think given how long the record cycle was, once the record was finally out, it kind of breathed new life into it for me,” Byun adds, beaming.

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Handsome Ghost’s Handsome Ghost with Atwood Magazine as Tim Noyes and Eddie Byun take us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their self-titled third album!

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:: stream/purchase Handsome Ghost here ::
:: connect with Handsome Ghost here ::
Stream: ‘Handsome Ghost’ – Handsome Ghost



:: Inside Handsome Ghost ::

Handsome Ghost - Handsome Ghost album art

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April Song

Tim: “April Song” is me asking myself the question: What am I doing with my life? No shocker here but there’s not a lot of stability or certainty when you choose music as a way to make a living. The song is recognition that things are always going to be a little crazy, a little out of control – but it’s what I love the most and I’m never going to stop doing it.
Eddie: This song feels like life in music. Some elements chuggin along (like the acoustic, drums), sometimes intimate, and sometimes just a big dream. It wasn’t completely intentional, but the way the bridge is an outlier, and is sandwiched between the rest of the song reminds me of the worst moments on tour, when my mind is maybe not in the best place, and I’m listening to something in the van in headphones, screaming internally. Before I put on my headphones and after I take them off, things are pretty much the same.

Like You Lost Your Mind

Tim: Specifically, this one is about a spontaneous trip I went on during the dark, dark pandemic days. In a larger sense, it’s essentially a pledge to lean into every experience and really take it all in while it’s there to take – because there’s no guarantee you’ll get another chance.
Eddie: This song was really fun to work through. The juxtaposition of the major and minor parts given the lyrics felt really compelling to me. A lot of complicated emotions smushed together. As a side note, there’s a lot of Caitlin Marie Bell on this record. This is the first song she sings on, but her voice adds such a cool depth to the songs.

Heaven Isn’t Long For You

Tim: I wrote the lyrics to Heaven on a fall hike with my dog – I had the melody kicking around for a while but the light was hitting the trees in a certain way that day and it got me thinking. The song is asking if it’s better to live in a world where everything is perfect all the time – or if you’d eventually miss the rollercoaster that is being human. In the song I pick the human option but let me get back to you on that because perfect all the time sounds pretty good right now.
Eddie: We wanted this song to feel a bit like a hootenanny, which was a bit difficult during the pandemic. I think in more typical times, we would have gotten a ton of players in a room and tried recording it that way. To get that feel, the main strumming part is a blend of banjo, a few acoustic guitars, a few mandolins. We were also fortunate to be able to have Marc Campbell and Caitlin come up and add their voices. My wife, Hannah, also sang in the choruses for this one. It was a fun one to make.

Call Me When You’re Pulling Up

Tim: In the band we talk about the vicious swings that come with life in music. One month you’re on top, then a few months later everything is falling apart, then you’re back on top in another year…and on and on it goes. “Call Me When You’re Pulling Up” is a personal song and not about the band – but there’s a parallel there. It’s about being on the very bottom and looking up, reaching out for the person who you care about the most, just hoping that they can show up and that magically their presence will immediately fix everything.
Eddie: Video director Nick Noyes made a really dark, playful, fun music video for this one. And when I hear it, now all I can visualize is the silly phone from the music video. And it makes me happy every time. I can’t even remember working on this track, all I can think of is the phone. (kidding. kinda).

Neptune

Tim: This was the first song we started working on for the record so it’s a special one for me, still. Lyrically it’s just chronicling a day in the life of these two characters, the narrator (me) and then the interesting one (her). I’m just there to describe the things that she’s doing and hopefully show the listener what an awesome weirdo she is.
Eddie: We worked on “Neptune” during the winter. At the time I was back and forth between living in MA and NY with my wife (girlfriend at the time). So the song has a lot of the cold, slush, and grime of a city in the winter.

Boy

Tim: “Boy” is one of those songs with two definitive sections, both with very different feels. Part one is tight and reserved and I think it fits the lyrics in that respect. The verses here in the first half are lecturing this “boy” on how to live his life correctly. And then in part two, as the song opens up, we switch to the other perspective and the boy is basically saying “nah, I’m going to do my own thing.”
Eddie: I love two-part songs like this. There were moments when I wanted to make the second half go on for ten minutes, but I guess that was a little too self-indulgent. Hah.

Tonight Comes Round Again

Tim: I lived in New York for a few years after college. Then, even after I moved out of the city and started touring, I was back there constantly. It was my home base for years. Tonight Comes Round Again is about a short, but very memorable relationship I had during those New York years. I wrote the lyrics here a while ago – so when I listen back I can hear a lot of the city in every phrase.
Eddie: The second half of the song is what joy feels like to me. Driving with the windows down in autumn, but still with a hint of… something else. This is an aside, but I’m so bad at shakers. Any time we need to record a shaker for a song, I derail the session because I have to do a hundred takes. Sorry Tim.

Even On The Darkest Days

Tim: I wrote “Even On The Darkest Days” a long time ago, and I actually wrote the majority of the song in our van one night. This was B.E. (before Eddie). The guys I was playing with were off doing their own thing and I remember I just stayed in the van with a guitar like a reclusive weirdo and wrote this one pretty quickly. Back then it was about playing in a band and how things get tough but you just need to take the punches as they come and if you’re still standing then that’s all that matters. Now – years later – the meaning has changed quite a bit. A ton has happened since I wrote this song, things that go way beyond playing music or really anything career related. So life has humbled me in that regard and I’ve realized that the “grind” of a life in music is something to embrace, not complain about. Now, Even On The Darkest Days, is about how life is going to throw very, very difficult things at you. But it’s a beautiful thing, overall. And as long as we’re still here, still fighting, then we’re doing it right.
Eddie: This is my kind of hopeful song. Hopeful but surrounded by reality. We tried this one just after our previous record Some Still Morning. Initially it was going to be an extension of sorts of that record sonically. But as soon as we started working on it, it became pretty clear that we needed to turn the page on SSM. Generally, for us, we’ll start a song, work on it a couple days, then move on. It helps us kinda develop the sound of a record. And once that sound is defined, I feel like it’s really easy to make more songs with that sound because we learn that sound pretty intimately. When we first approached it as an extension of SSM, it was coming together so easily that it didn’t feel quite right. It was apparent it was time to push ourselves to do something new and to turn the page. So we took a few months away from the studio to kinda shift our thinking and start something new.

Figure 8

Tim: My friend introduced me to Elliott Smith when I was in high school and I…did not like it. But I gave him another listen in college and I don’t know what changed but he quickly became my favorite songwriter. His lyrics, the way he delivers his vocals – just his overall sound. It really spoke to me and he remains my favorite songwriter today. I think he is absolutely one of a kind and his records 100% hold up even after all these years. Figure 8 is about what it would be like to know him.
Eddie: At the time we were working on this one, I was experimenting with a bunch of different overdrive and distortion guitar pedal circuits. It was really fun to put the guitar sounds together. Maybe a little self-indulgent, but that’s music I guess.

Birch Trees

Tim: “Birch Trees” is one of those songs where the setting is just as important as the characters or the message. I spent a night in Northern Michigan one summer many years ago and that town just stuck with me over the years. It felt like it was light out until midnight (this was not the case, but it felt like it) and I was really struck by how perfect everything felt. The locals I was with acknowledged it, but warned me how brutal the winters were and how everyone just kind of hibernated for four months. So I wrote “Birch Trees” with that town in mind.
Eddie: This is one where Caitlin’s voice heavily impacted the song. The way she sings the post chorus was completely unexpected (for me). I was expecting a more straightforward folk delivery.. But the way she sang was so haunting and enchanting it added a really cool dimension. I got goosebumps while mixing it. She’s an incredible talent.

Tiny Cracks & Pieces

Tim: I’ve been playing in bands for almost the entirety of my adult life at this point. A long time. I tend to write about the experiences I’ve had over these years – usually experiences adjacent to the band. Relationships, good times, terrible times, etc. But most of these experiences have been driven by my life in music – they don’t happen without it. So Tiny Cracks and Pieces is the first time I have written explicitly about the band. The song follows us as we finish up a show, pack up, head to the hotel, kick around the parking lot afterwards. I tried to capture my complicated relationship with it all. How it can be so beautiful and painful at the same time.
Eddie: Tim’s demos of all of these songs are so good. I always try to just grow the songs with him, with his vision in mind. One of the many special parts of the demos for this record were his non-lead vocals. The oohs on this song are really emotional and haunting. Tim’s the best.

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:: connect with Handsome Ghost here ::

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