Lauren Hoffman & The Secret Storm

Family Ghost

(Amrit Music)

Produced by Lauren Hoffman and John Morand, this is an act new to me but the recordings seem to have been completed in Richmond, Virginia. The song titles point to an emotional trip, don’t they? At which point we press PLAY….

Opening track Don’t Look Back has an eerie and spacey beat, with mournful violin and a restrained vocal, a far hint of Suzanne Vega perhaps…if sitting in with The Red House Painters or Mazzy Star? At @ 1:20 a fuller band sound hits the listener and I am reminded of The Velvets’ Venus In Furs. The vocal sits too far back in the mix for the lyrics to be clear. But an enveloping rolling ambience is well-attained. So far, so strange…..

Feel It All has a brisker, perkier tempo and the urgent vocal sounds much clearer. Hoffman has an attractive and beguiling voice which does suit this quasi-Goth backdrop. The song is strong and well thought-out. Let The Waves Crash On Me lopes in on tremelo’d guitar. The words sound accusatory and the almost sea-shanty vibe makes the whole number a tad sinister. A clean falsetto is readily reached.

Sick With Love is gentler, more reflective, cello to the fore. The singing couldn’t be clearer. For a love song the delivery is pretty chilly, though. It’s more like a lament. Best assume that’s the intent. In The Sun has more rhythm and warmth, at least on the instrumentation. The band sound is like Crowded House, in the shadows – strange for the song title….

I Just Broke Up With A Guy Who Looks Kinda Like You and the vocal here is really fine and well-recorded. A twelve-string guitar would have sounded good on this selection. As it is, this sounds like a sad Blondie! Family Ghost has some sonic edge and the group sounds as if it knows where it’s going. Something about this reminds me of All About Eve. Fast Lane starts solemnly, wisps of violin sliding around in the mix. The song may be about surrender?

Broken is deliberately stilted as it starts, again the violin adds coldness whether that’s intended or not and the delay emphasises this. This more like a poem than a song. Certainly dream-like ; The Dragon comes on like an adult anime film beginning, then the vocal sounds like the niece of Nico intoning at us. Til It Lasts has an almost country lilt to it, tender folk-rock and my favourite track here.

A pretty downbeat set of songs, performed with care and feel but not my cup of tea. I could quite see them opening for, say Lucinda Williams or Nick Cave, though. That way they will find an audience.

Pete Sargeant

(Thanks Tom)


Lauren Hoffman & The Secret Storm's new studio album 'Family Ghost' is out now on Amrit Music.

For artist information, tour dates and the rest head over to 

Lauren Hoffman & The Secret Storm