Who is Ghost Pop? A review of It Was As If.

Ghost Pop is the alias of Aaron Liu, a Lofi indie pop artist who resides in Portland, Oregon. The artist contains multitudes with a discography of 17 albums (see Bandcamp) and 12 for you to enjoy on streaming services. Each of these albums are brimming with so much creativity and ingenuity that it’s almost unbelievable that it came from the head of one guy. What makes this even more impressive is that all 12 of the projects available on streaming services have all been released after 2020, and he shows no signs of stopping. 

Ghost Pop manages to make something grandiose within minimalism. His Lofi production provides the listener with a feeling found somewhere between laziness and lavishness, like a drunken waltz through a luxury hotel. In a strange way, it almost feels like a more Lofi and laidback version of Alex Turner’s Everything You’ve Come To Expect or Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Other influences I hear in the sounds of Ghost Pop are that of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Beach Boys, and The Velvet Underground. It’s also kind of like if you got a whole discography of “Call It Fate, Call It Karma” by The Strokes. 

To give you an idea of what a Ghost Pop album sounds like (he’s already released 5 this year), this article will also include a review one of the newest Ghost Pop releases: It Was As If.

It Was As If feels like soft-spoken poetry over jazzy instrumental, with the best brought out by Ghost Pop’s distinct touch of Lofi production. Ghost Pop’s lyrics are so vulnerable and give character to the voice behind the lyrics, which often come off as timid yet curious. True to the name, the project exudes a haunting energy that is quelled only by the quirky sweetness found in the lyrics, endless lines of longing, and lonely imagery. Quiet flushes of static fill the spaces between tracks and give texture to the transitions throughout.

“Never To Return” kicks off the album with a roll of drum beats, and we’re carried off by light strumming, somber basslines, and the quiet singing of Ghost Pop. Acoustic guitar melodies accompanied by ambient whistling fill the air. The track utilizes only what it needs to, so when new components are introduced, like the whistling, it feels nothing short of enchanting.

Track 2 is “Soon It Will All Just Be A Memory.” The song feels like it was written in the moments before falling asleep. Its downtempo and quiet pacing is strangely hypnotic, lulling the listener to sleep. Ghost Pop’s voice shakes as he sings, “Soon I will close my eyes, and this will all be just a memory.” In this song, he seems to be accepting the way that things change, realizing it’s inevitable.

Track 3, “Transformation,” might be my favorite song Ghost Pop that I’ve ever heard (“The Wonder” is a very close second). In the very best way, this song reminds me of “The Rainbow Connection” by everyone’s favorite fuzzy frog, Kermit (a song that sits in my top 50 favorite songs of all time I might add). There’s also a bit of “Sunday Morning” by The Velvet Underground in this track. Okay, enough comparisons; let me talk about what makes this song so special to me:

“Transformation” rests on a simple yet elegant ascending piano melody that’s carried further by Pop Ghost’s gorgeous lyricism.

“You once had a wish when you were young
You wished that you could see what you’d become
To know your fortune what you would have done
To see yourself now, to see a transformation
The way it worked out to see the confirmation
To vanquish all doubt, to see is this what you wanted to be?”

All throughout this album we’re exposed to ideas of nostalgia and expectations for the future through the eyes of Aaron Liu. These lyrics beautifully ask questions that anyone can relate to in the long years of growing up. I think it’s a brilliant song about finding your place and the satisfaction that comes with realizing, “hey, it’s all okay; it worked out,” and further, wanting to be able to deliver that message to a younger self.

Track 5 is another one of my favorites from the album. “A Different Rain” delicately details the mundanity of getting out the door in the morning.
The track begins with the lyrics:

“Get out of bed, turn on the lights, put on some clothes, and make your way out the door”

Soothing synths set the mood as Ghost Pop’s vocals swirl around in quiet bliss. As piano keys play in the background, guitars run free with quick and curious licks. The return of Ghost Pop’s vocals is charming as he takes us to the close of the song:

“relax your shoulders,
take a deep breath,
settle your heart,
and make your way out the door”

The title track “It Was As If” starts off with easy strumming when the tender voice of Ghost Pop drops in. The track sings of love with awe, brimming with excitement about the newfound possibility of a future with someone, comparing it to “peering through a crystal ball.”

Some of my favorite lyrics from the whole project come from this song in the form of these lines:

“There’s so much more. The page was blank for the pen to leak.
Like the shore that at last appears for a boat once lost at sea.
What’s in store (what’s in store)? I can already guess, I can already (already) see.
I see nothing else, all I see is you.”

Absolutely beautiful.

“This Is Our Vision” takes the listener on a journey to “another place, another time.” With its mildly psychedelic undertones guided by the faint jazz guitar in the background, Ghost Pop sings about his fascinations.

Key chimes dance in and out as Ghost Pop goes on to sing about resolve found within. The track allows time to explore this curiosity while a jazz guitar plays a solo behind. The hushed vocals return to sing once more, “This is our vision, our fascination,” and bring the track to a close.

“Snake” follows along arpeggiated patterns on acoustic guitar, melodies
This feels very reminiscent of “From The Sun” and many other tracks off of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s II. It strikes back to what I loved about the album in its very authenticity.

“Our House On The Left” brings a wonderful end to the album with a quirky song about his home. All of the personality in the place comes to life in the track as Ghost Pop sings about all that manifests there. It feels a bit like a mystery being unveiled as each lyric depicts another corner of the house. I really like the inside/outside idea of the track and the way that he plays with the neighbor’s impressions of the house. Again, this strikes me in similar ways to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s II or something that would’ve come from Lou Reed’s songbook.

All in all, Ghost Pop is a treasure trove of heartfelt Lofi worlds, and I’m astounded by their consistency in both quantity and quality. I’d be lying if I said that I’d heard all there is to hear in his discography, so be on the lookout for more articles about Ghost Pop as I explore this hidden gem.

Favorite Tracks: Soon It Will All Be Just A Memory, Transformation, A Different Rain, It Was As If, and Our House On The Left.

Listen to It Was As If below! And check out Ghost Pop’s bandcamp for more!

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