Paul Oska likes to take his time. Over the past thirteen years the UK dark-folk singer/songwriter has released three records. His latest, “So Long, My Lonely Ghost” is a five track EP, arriving after an eight year hiatus. The 2020 COVID-19 quarantine provided Paul the opportunity to complete composing and arranging pieces he had been working on for years. It is a scenario we have seen played out with musicians across the globe this year. With no-gigs and nothing but free time, artists have turned inward and started creating.
As soon as things began to open up, Paul took his newly completed songs to Manchester’s Astar Studios. His was their first booking after lockdown. Oska and a crew of crack local musicians spent two weeks in the studio recording a beautifully nuanced collection of acoustic music.
The five songs on “So Long, My Lonely Ghost” showcase Paul’s uniquely emotional and visceral writing style. Loosely defined themes of death and the impermanence of life run through the record and tie these songs together. Lyrically Paul’s writing is more visual and poetic than narrative. For instance on the opening track “The Gathering” he sings, “I’ll see you in the last hour.” There is an implication of a deep personal meaning, but without further detail he leaves the listener to fill in the spaces with moments and images from their own life.
Like a painter, he tells his story by impression. The melancholy mood and raw emotional connection the singer has to his songs brings to mind artists like Leonard Cohen or Elliot Smith. Songs like the title track and “Smother” hint at the ghost of Cohen, with lines like, “There’s a story going ’round, ’bout you and I.” However, Paul’s vocal range extends well beyond that of the legendary monotone Canadian’s. For example on the closing track, “They’re Going to Get You in the End” he shows Jeff Buckley-style dexterity.
The production on “So Long, My Lonely Ghost” is a beautiful organic mix of acoustic instruments and ambient room sounds. The natural aesthetic of guitar, double bass, drums and strings is captured unadorned by any effects or gadgetry. It is a warm and intimate sound that matches perfectly Oska’s deeply human writing. It is easy to get lost in the record’s immersive sound.
You can hear the title track of “So Long, My Lonely Ghost” on the Deep Indie Dive playlist. And follow the links below to connect with Paul Oska.
Recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Andy Ross at Astar Studios Manchester, UK
Paul Oska : vocals, acoustic guitar
Claire Victoria Roberts : violin
Margit van der Zwan : cello
Ed Harrison : double bass
Bruce Renshaw : drums