Sound — 6
Ghost Town's existence is one of the many examples of how the meshing of electronica and emo music has been a strangely colorful and damningly polarizing corner of the music world that, surprisingly, hasn't completely died out from its peak practice years ago (has someone coined the term "emotronica" yet?). Breaking into the scene only a couple of years ago with their self-released debut album, "Party in the Graveyard," their emocore/dubstep hybrid sound was akin to the likes of Blood On The Dance Floor, albeit less insane and more pop-driven. They quickly captured the attention of Fueled By Ramen, who signed the freshman band to their label to re-release their debut album in the same year, as well as having Ghost Town promptly release their follow-up album, "The After Party," a year later, which continued both their sound and their kitschy horror themes to a T.
Still sticking to this fast track of releasing albums, Ghost Town are now tasking themselves with expanding from the formula of their previous two albums in their third album, bluntly named "Evolution." Completely abstaining from dubstep drops or even the Skrillex-derived drum loops that almost exclusively built their earlier material, they give themselves more freedom to travel down a number of sonic paths; though all of those paths are paved with the same pop-minded mentality. The pop punk efforts of "Out Alive" and "Down" bear the same spiffy production value of current-era All Time Low and Sleeping With Sirens, and they also appropriate industrial metal in the AWOLNATION-esque eponymous song and "Mean Kids," as well as the Marilyn Manson-inspired "Spark" (seriously, it's uncanny how many bands use "The Beautiful People" as a template).
Cohesion isn't that much of an issue in this fanned-out expansion, but the musical output of "Evolution" is a sequence of hits and misses. Where "Loner" does a perfect job being a staple for any kind of emo dance party, "Human" tries to craft a synthpop tune in the playful vein of CHVRCHES but comes out like a paint-by-numbers boy band tune, and where "Candles" succeeds in being a gripping emo pop ballad, the ending ballad of "Let Go" hampers the driving acoustic guitar with an unnecessary amount of synth elements (keeping the song as organic as possible would've made it stand out advantageously). Only in "Internet Pirates" does Ghost Town show a bit of bite, brandishing relatively heavier guitar energy and hints of Kevin McCullough's harsh vocals, but it's a faint and ultimately useless attempt to hold onto their heavier sound from their earlier work.
Lyrics — 6
With the same goal as the music, McCullough also pushes forward from his expected horror-themed lyrical style of on "Evolution." But though he leaves behind his flat imagery of monsters and ghouls, McCullough niftily hangs on to a bit of the undead symbolism to help articulate a recurring theme of disconnection in the modern world. With the out-of-place anthem of "Human" having McCullough relating his perspective to that of a ghost, he details his unwillingness to participate in the empty pomp of social gatherings in "Loner" ("Another invite that I missed / Too bad that I don't give a shit"), and denounces how the advancements of the social world has rendered emotion to be more insincere in "Evolution" ("We're not human anymore / With this evolution / Love is an illusion"). Tangentially, "Candles" also uses a lightly-occult theme of a one-man candlelight vigil to represent a troubled relationship, not only being one of the most mature set of lyrics McCullough has written thus far, but also being an example of how he can continue his penchant for those themes without reaching "Halloween decoration"-level absurd.
However, other parts of McCullough's lyrics in "Evolution" bear a blandness that almost begs to have some kitschy horror theme thrown on top of it just for the sake of sprucing things up. From the simple dualism in "Spark" ("You live or you burn / But you gotta choose") and "Let Go" ("Sometimes you just gotta let go let let go let go / You said hold on, but I'll just let go"), to the appeal to taking initiative in "Out Alive" ("Waiting for your turn is never gonna work out / No one's gonna hear you unless you scream out loud"), McCullough articulates these positive morals with minimal intrigue, leaving much to be desired.
Overall Impression — 6
More than just mixing things up from the hard-lined template of dubstep/emocore they used in their previous albums, Ghost Town enter a brand new phase in "Evolution," conscribing to pop rock for better and for worse. With this first step into a brand new phase, "Evolution" very much works like a debut album of sorts - trying out a bunch of different ideas, some float and some sink, ultimately showing that Ghost Town are, for the most part, moving forward, but still have to find their footing and really hit a stride.