The accidental death of Craig Minowa's infant son in 2002 has understandably dominated his songwriting. It's fair to say that the tragedy is the key to understanding his music, including Cloud Cult's sixth disc, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes). But he very rarely deals with it by being maudlin or excessively dark; rather than brooding, he deals with his grief by using it to explore more universal themes about the fragility and beauty of life, the importance of love, and finding peace amid devastation.
Ghosts—self-released on Minowa's environmentally conscious label—finds the Minnesota band more vibrant and creative than ever, surpassing last year's The Meaning Of 8 with even lusher orchestration that draws on classical, electronica, folk, and Flaming Lips-esque indie-rock. Though it's an extended meditation on mortality that includes the declaration "There's so much more to see in the darkest places," Ghosts sounds surprisingly innocent and joyful; where The Polyphonic Spree's optimism sometimes seems creepily facile, for Cloud Cult, it seems like hard-earned wisdom. At its highest points, it approaches transcendence, as on "When Water Comes To Life," which turns a description of a child's autopsy into a heartbreakingly lyrical statement of what's left after we die: water, sand, and memories.