There’s a certain joy of discovery in first listening to Hungry, Hungry Ghost, possibly because Alex Haager brings such an innocent, immaculate vibe to his recording project. He displays all the youthful nonchalance of twee and indie rock but seals it with grown-up production values, making for starry-eyed, breathy-voiced pop complete with cuddly synths, handclaps and horns. Originally from Florida, Haager crafted this lush debut with a pair of collaborators at the tender age of 21 while living in Berlin, Germany. Released there in 2007, Sleeping English is only now getting the stateside release it deserves.
The soothing opener “Hundred Yard Reach” succeeds right away with priceless vocal harmonies and dreamy instrumentation—rivaled in charm only by the title track, which neatly sets worried lyrics against lackadaisical singing and guitar. Harmonies pop up again alongside accordion and roller-rink organ on “Escape to Witch Mtn.,” and Haager’s tentative, even shy delivery on “Blind” is offset by the elastic synth-pop of “Exploder,” which finishes with a celebratory racket and a distinctly danceable tail. The closing “We Are Melting!” mingles jumbled snare, a fleeting hip-hop beat and the winning phrase “Let’s build a tunnel from my brain into your heart.” (Mission accomplished.)
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Now based in Brooklyn, Haager has since recorded the Cyclopic Myopia EP, also worth tracking down. On it, he plays everything himself and sounds more confident (but no less huggable). The EP’s “Breathing Animals” could be his breakthrough, provided it falls into the right blog’s hands. All of this praise might seem like a bit much, but that’s the effect Haager and Hungry, Hungry Ghost can have on unsuspecting listeners. In fact, BaDaBing Records employee Hunter Giles was inspired to start his own label just to release Sleeping English. It’s hard to think of a better recommendation than that.