Review: Tiny Blue Ghost Bring a Well-Rounded, Mature Approach to ‘Growing Pains’

Growing Pains - Tiny Blue Ghost
Growing Pains - Tiny Blue Ghost
Tiny Blue Ghost explore all the pitfalls of entering adulthood on the singer-songwriter influenced album Growing Pains.

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Maybe it’s some sort of Peter Pan-Syndrome, but album’s about growing up and navigating your way to a comfortable place usually hit a sweet spot. New Paltz’s Tiny Blue Ghost pounces on this emotional target with the fittingly titled Growing Pains. Frontwoman Marissa Carroll navigates through both love and depression through the album with twinkling guitars and soaring choruses.

Like their peers Julien Baker or Sorority Noise, Tiny Blue Ghost focus not only on constructing good songs but creating an atmosphere within the recording that sounds like wandering around on a clear summer night, whether it’s a soft ballad or a chugging piece of power-chord punk rock. It’s incredibly similar to TWIABP’s 2013 debut, Whenever, If Ever in the way that Carroll and multi-instrumentalist Joseph Wright use very simple instrumentation to make a massive sounding record. They can also write a pretty sweet banger; “Pillow Talk” is pop-punk in its purest form. “Poisoned” marries both the loudest and softest moments on Growing Pains with a riff that borrows from Fleetwood Mac’s “Silver Spring.”

Growing Pains - Tiny Blue Ghost
Growing Pains – Tiny Blue Ghost

Carroll’s lyrics are often similar to many of her singer-songwriter and emo peers. She occasionally finds herself utilizing clichés like in “Pillow Talk”:

it’s been so long since I’ve been in this god damned town
and I’ve done absolutely nothing but hang around
I think it’s time for a change of scenery
maybe I’ll go somewhere no one knows me

Still, she sings with such conviction that it’s excusable. Still, when Carroll writes a good lyric, it’s a great one like in the love song “Supernova”:

spin me in circles and never let go
fleeting moments like this are
what makes us glow
your touch is electric
it vibrates my soul
when we’re heart to heart
all the galaxies start to explode

A listener really gets a sense of Carroll’s honesty and realism. When she sings about small towns, you get the sense that she’s both singing about her hometown, but her town is also a stand in for any number of small towns in the country, where neighbors put up ugly fences and young teens watch Twin Peaks together.

Tiny Blue Ghost © 2018
Tiny Blue Ghost © 2018

The two songs that best sum up all of Growing Pains though are “Shifting” and “Hibernation.” The former is a breakup song that doesn’t paint the most flattering picture of Carroll. In a dating world where people often feel stuck in a vicious cycle of breaking up, getting together, and ghosting each other, this song is told from the perspective of someone doing the breaking up, and feeling kind of bad about it. Breaking someone’s heart isn’t easy, but Carroll commits in the chorus where she sings, “I don’t regret what I did that night.” Sometimes love can be suffocating, and you need to hurt some feelings. It’s refreshing to see a song that says, “I feel bad, but this is what I needed to do.” The closing number “Hibernation” shows trying to force happiness out or trying to change yourself to find happiness. Even if life changes, sometimes you wake up in a place where you don’t recognize anyone and can’t really explain why you’re still unhappy. What Tiny Blue Ghost tells us is that sometimes unhappiness, ennui, guilt, and other growing pains sometimes stay with us.

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Growing Pains - Tiny Blue Ghost

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