Hospital Ships is the solo project of founder indie rock veteran Jordan Geiger (Shearwater, Minus Story). ‘Oh, Ramona’ is Geiger’s first release as a solo artist featuring bedroom recordings of his carefully composed songs, tenderly played out on gently acoustics and barely audible vocals.
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- Oh Ramona by Hospital Ships
On a kind of meta level, this record’s overwroughtness is overwrought. Like, that it’s overwrought is not a problem -- it’s that there’s too much of the overwrought to parse through it properly. Anyway, in an attempt to start making sense, ‘Oh, Ramona’ is the first solo outing for ex-Shearwater member John Geiger. His involvement with that band means he’s only a few degrees separate from Okkervil River, so I’m all about giving him a chance: as Hospital Ships, he’s got Conor Oberst’s melancholy, the instruments of a twee pop sad boy like Mr. Casiotone, and the vocal directness of the similarly titled Radiator Hospital. A pretty winning combo for theatrically miserable bedroom pop, overall.
Geiger sounds best when he’s cozied up by his instruments and friends, when his penchant for making his problems sound huge is given musical accompaniments: the lovely “The Shots I Drank” twinkles with piano as per Badly Drawn Boy’s, and drums shuffle in shyly to offset a dozen other flourishes. By the end, he sounds more like the National in a studio than a boy in a bedroom. “I Do Not Understand”, a ballad ready for its place in a sequel to 500 Days of Summer, begins on bold, miserable piano notes before xylophone and bass comes in to bring us back to reality. There’s both grandiosity and self-effacement going on, in these songs, and I always feel that Gieger should be decorating his sparse moments: I don’t enjoy getting close to him on the opening strums of “Sink Your Teeth Into Me”, but I can get on board with the breeze the trumpets make.
There are moments of near cinematic indie pop, with “Oh, No” picking thick acoustic strums for pairing against obvious mantras, and the scuzz-Beirut folk pop of “Oh, Ramona” suddenly deviating the record’s tone into full-on quirky. Overall, though, there are plenty of nice, emotive moments to pick out of plenty of other ones. To quote Kirk Van Houten, can I borrow a feeling?
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