Timothy Monger
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Timothy Monger

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The best kept secret in music


"Splendid E-zine"

While Timothy Monger's band, The Original Brothers And Sisters of Love, have been reviewed here before, perusing our reviews of those albums won't give you any idea of the virtues that make Summer Cherry Ghosts so utterly spectacular. My fellow reviewers, tasked with identifying that band's sound, have employed categorizations like "prog-folk-rock" and "the biggest sea-shanty-inspired act in Ann Arbor". While I admit that I have yet to hear anything by the Brothers and Sisters, neither of those descriptions seem to compare to Monger's first solo effort, which is pure chamber-pop bliss.
I mean, bliss. From uniquely evocative and expressive opener to emotionally raw-yet-comforting closer, it's hard to wipe the smile off of your lips while you're listening to Summer Cherry Ghosts. Oh, and while we're at it, this is my nominee for "most aptly named album of 2004": it's suffused with the summer of Brian Wilson, with the beauty and fragility of cherry blossoms, with the wistful haunting of melancholy ghosts.

First, the opener: "Cleveland Heights" is like a clinic on sketching a scene lyrically and taking your audience with you. "Hurrah! This is my last dollar / and my baby's waking up / and the moon is breaking up with the sun / this is our last hour / what a joy to see the Maunee rolling by like chocolate milk / past its hulking mills / and I love you / and the band we saw just blew my mind / and this car is fun to drive / and Cleveland Heights is fun to find." Now, what you miss in reading those words is the way they mesh perfectly with the gentle-to-bombastic music, all bass, drums, clean guitar and (most of all) glorious strings. As it builds through "past its hulking mills", then drops away for the subsequent lines; as the vocals quadruple-track on "blew my mind", then split into ooh-ahh harmonies; the way everything Phil Spectors up behind "fun to find", dropping into a perfect, string-heavy groove. As it settles into the denouement, there's no question that you're in the back of that car, ears still ringing from the perfect concert, on the way home from a perfect evening.

"Metropark" is almost as astonishing, a lyrical tour through the narrator's youth that exploits a simple acoustic guitar strum and another beautiful string arrangement. The bassoon part (!) is the kind of rich middle tone that pop music usually forgets to include, and its nuanced placement in the mix is sure proof that Monger's arrangements are not quirk-fests of unnecessary and exotic sounds. It's one of the best-put-together songs on a brilliantly orchestrated disc. The glockenspiel interlude on "Crime on a Summer Day" is another highlight, and again sounds natural rather than forced.

"Sunday Night Swing Dancing Lessons", sung entirely in falsetto, is so pretty it's almost shocking; the lyrics here are a bit obscure ("It's Disney wheel, it's biscuit wheel", for example, has me stumped), but once again the overall scene-setting is perfect: it's a guitar-and-mandolin reel about a musician's discomfort with the terpsichorean arts. "Musicians don't dance / they wish they were playing." It's also a shout-out to Neil (Young, I assume), and ends with happiness and forgiveness all around.

Finally, closer "Self Sounds" is as confessional and painful a song as I've heard, juxtaposed with a sing-along chorus, rich backing vocals, gorgeous melody, and almost Abba-esque drum production. The matter-of-factness of the lyrics' confession is startling: "When you were overseas / I wasn't alone, I wasn't alone, I wasn't alone." It's a mature view of a difficult subject -- no one walks out of a slamming door or goes to get drunk in the wake of the revelation. "When you found out I heard you crying late / Just listening to your tape / But then at last, you had to deal with me / And when the morning broke / Tears were on my sleeves." As if all of this weren't enough, there's an honest-to-god baroque horn break, which in turn tangles with a vigorous string line. It's the kind of four minute song that seems to stretch well beyond its running time, yet is over far too soon.

This is a truly astonishing record, from its composition, to its lyrics, to its execution, to its genuinely cohesive feel. Please don't miss this one. - Brett McCallon

- Brett McCallon

"All Music Guide"

Released in the summer of 2004, nearly three years after the Original Brothers and Sisters of Love's second album and a few months after the band's mutation into the Great Lake Myth Society, Summer Cherry Ghosts is the first solo album by TOBASOL co-leader Timothy Monger. On his own, Monger leaves behind some of the signatures of his band, in particular a fondness for eerie folksongs and spinning stories, choosing to ground his solo work in a lush, lightly baroque indie-pop. It's a subtle yet notable shift from his work on the TOBASOL records, and it's a significant step forward for Monger, both as a musician and songwriter. He's crafted a sweetly nostalgic song cycle, filled with sketches of places and people he's loved, memories he treasures -- in short, the ghosts of summers past. There's apparent affection in each song, whether it's for songs heard on the radio or lost romances, so it's appropriate that he's given all nine tunes intricately detailed, loving arrangements with echoes of British Invasion, '60s sunshine pop, Donovan, XTC, melancholic folk-rock, psychedelic pop, confessional-'70s singer/songwriter, and pastoral pop. Each track is layered with ideas and allusions, but the arrangements aren't overly busy; by keeping the tracks succinct -- most are three minutes or under, and the entire album clocks in at under a half-hour -- Monger gives the music space to breathe, letting melodies, lyrics and sounds linger in the mind long after they've finished. All these little details, in the recording and the writing, form an album that's lovely, intimate, affecting, and quite addictive. -- Stephen Thomas Erlewine - Stephen Thomas Erlewine

"Detroit Free Press"

The solo debut recording from Ann Arbor-based singer-songwriter Timothy Monger, 27, is a sophisticated collection of baroque pop songs that instantly brings to mind the work of XTC, Rufus Wainwright and "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys.

"Summer Cherry Ghost" is decidedly not your average lo-fi indie effort. With complex arrangements, wide-ranging instrumentation (guitars, keyboards, strings, trumpet, bassoon, glockenspiel, etc.), and Monger's soaring falsetto, the songs have been produced to stand out and sound big, a la ELO's Jeff Lynne, one of Monger's acknowledged influences. Nostalgic, romanticized images of summer are everywhere in the lyrics: love affairs, cicadas, sunsets and cold cocktails.

Among the many guests on "Summer Cherry Ghost" is Monger's older brother James. Both Mongers previously played in The Original Brothers and Sisters of Love, who released two albums on the Telegraph label out of NYC, and continue working together in the new ensemble Great Lakes Myth Society.
- Martin Bandyke

"Ann Arbor Paper"

"Giving slight nods to venerable singer/songwriters like Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson as well as contemporaries like Michael Penn and Sufjan Stevens, the nine tracks on the album brim with genius arrangement, genuine vocals, and grounding guitar work, all of which Monger is very proud of. The poetic lyrics sometimes suggest the voice of Walt Whitman or even the ultra-romantic metaphorical style of Ray Bradbury." - Ray Wagel

"Real Detroit Weekly"

With illuminating and gorgeous instrumentation, Timothy Monger's Summer Cherry Ghosts is a demure summer album of lilting melodies, intimate lyrics and breezy baroque pop (think the Chamber Strings meets Elephant 6). Breaking away (slightly) from his Ann Arbor group the Original Brothers and Sisters of Love, Summer Cherry Ghosts finds Monger creating a more straightforward album of elegantly played English folk-rock and laid-back '60s sunshine pop. The songs that appear in this set suggest a singer/songwriter who's nostalgic for a classic story within songs baked with heavenly, lush orchestration. Monger's amiable demeanor makes me wonder if he was the kind of guy who got beat up as a teenager because he was overheard talking about his love for the Bee Gee's Odessa. While Summer Cherry Ghosts is a brief album, it streams together so pleasantly that by the time you repeat the opener, "Cleveland Heights," it's more than okay. - Shannon McCarthy



Summer Cherry Ghosts - Japanese Version w/ bonus tracks (Trolley Bus - 2005) CD
Summer Cherry Ghosts (No Bitings - 2004) CD

Great Lakes Myth Society:

Great Lakes Myth Society (Stop, Pop & Roll - 2005)

The Original Brothers and Sisters of Love:

H.O.M.E.S. Volume One (Telegraph Co. 2001 ) CD
The Legende of Jeb Minor (Telegraph Co. 2000) CD


Feeling a bit camera shy


Timothy Monger writes hazy pop anthems you won't hear on the radio, but should. They spin mercilessly across the universe making you heady with the nostalgia of summers passing you by. They spill out of your glove compartment like long-forgotten mix tapes and coffee stained road maps. Ornate, austere folk-pop anthems lovingly crafted for you by a Michigan boy with a heart in the past and the past on his sleeve.

As one-third of a team of songwriters in Michigan's eclectic rock group The Original Brothers and Sisters of Love (TOBASOL.), guitarist/vocalist Timothy Monger gained national attention with two stellar releases on the Brooklyn, NY label The Telegraph Company. He founded the band with his older brother Jamie in 1996, inspired by other sibling bands like Minneapolis' Trip Shakespeare and the legendary Beach Boys. They bent their focus on intelligent songwriting, vocal harmony and intricate arrangements. Their debut album, The Legende of Jeb Minor was released in the Spring of 2000 to critical accolades and college airplay all across the United States.

The band's sophomore release, an artful love letter to their native Great Lakes called H.O.M.E.S. Volume One was released late in 2001. TOBASOL continued to tour in support of the album and eventually showcased at several of America’s top festivals including Austin's South by Southwest, New York's CMJ and Boston's NEMO festival. Of the album, the Iowa Press Citizen wrote "The resulting "TOBASOL Sound" is a shimmering blend of '60s-era Fairport Convention, "Odessey & Oracle"-period Zombies, Austin's The Gourds and a dash of XTC."

During breaks from the band, Monger continued to perform solo acoustic shows as he had been doing since the age of 16. With the excess of personal material that comes from working within a multi-songwriter band, he began to lay down tracks for a solo album in his spare time. The songs he had been saving were more notably based in the pop realm than TOBASOL's avante folk-rock. Producing the album and playing a bulk of the instruments himself, Monger has arranged a dense pop record filled with lush strings, multi-tiered vocal harmonies and hooks around every corner.

Monger's debut Summer Cherry Ghosts was released in the summer of 2004 on his own label No Bitings Records. The album was subsequently picked up by Japanese indie Trolley Bus and released in Japan with two bonus tracks in June 2005. This year also saw the debut release by Monger's band the Great Lakes Myth Society on Stop, Pop & Roll Records out of Texas.