Cloud Cult: Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes)

“Cloud Cult’s” Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) is one of the most likable albums of the year. It’s a jumpy, unrelenting journey that, after listening, will not easily be forgotten. And it’s not just the music that makes “Cloud Cult” so likeable. With the band touring in a biodiesel van and planting 10 trees for every 1,000 albums sold, it’s easy to wish nothing but the best for this group.

Feel Good Ghosts opens with “No One Said It Would Be Easy.” Swirling piano and a pulsating synthesizer draw the listener in with immediacy before coming back down to earth with singer Craig Minowa’s humble verses.

Immediately following “No One Said It Would Be Easy,” “Cloud Cult” sidesteps into an abstract and less melodic sound. At this point in the album it is already apparent that Feel Good Ghosts is a heterogeneous collection of songs, instead of a continuous stream of songs.

There are plenty of studio tricks to be found to keep the ears interested, but at times all the clicks, beeps and static can be quite distracting. Adding these little embellishments can often be a cure for mediocrity, but the songs are already so dense that it’s not entirely necessary. With orchestral movements, layers of guitars and over-dubbed vocals, Feel Good Ghosts has enough going on already.

Even so, Feel Good Ghosts is an album so instantly gratifying that it’s hard to refuse additional listens. Minowa and Co. meander their way through the meaning of life on this spastic album, exposing the gorgeous and the grotesque.

“Journey of the Featherless” stands out as the flagship song of Feel Good Ghosts. Minowa’s vocals are just shaky enough to evoke a real sense of vulnerability in the lyrics, which are as intimate and conversational as a diary entry. Introducing new musical themes within the song itself, it is easily the most captivating song on the record.

“I love my mother, I love my father. And when it’s my time to go, I need you to know I love you all,” sings Minowa in such a sweet, simple sentiment on “Love You All” that it needs nothing more to bring the record to a potent close.

To the band’s benefit, there are no predictable moments on Feel Good Ghosts.

Never staying in one musical place for too long, Minowa will transition from a moment of heavily distorted vocals into a lush, symphony of sound. From dance-pop to electronica, and folk to rock ‘n roll, “Cloud Cult” really does span the entire spectrum. A little bit “The Flaming Lips,” a little bit “Modest Mouse” but entirely their own, this is an album not to be missed.

Some have said “Cloud Cult” have run out of things to say, after releasing eight albums in as many years, but a certain admiration is due to this band for being such a prolific independent band. Denying major label interest and packaging their albums with 100 percent post-consumer recycled products, it’s obvious they are thriving and content with where they stand in the musical landscape.

Editor’s note: “Cloud Cult” will perform on Nov. 17 at UW-Stout.

– David Taintor