While there’s no obvious primer on the handling of ghosts, there’s enough of a common mythology to infer a few things — one of which is that some form of confrontation and/or appeasement is enough to make them go away. Perhaps that explains their presence en masse on Trapper Schoepp’s latest LP, May Day.
While the accompanying press materials for May Day include sunnier quotes about a springtime release and providing a musical “escape,” the reality is that Schoepp’s new album is occupied with myriad shadows and specters. There are literal ghosts and figurative ones, remnants of past regrets and relationships in need of a settled score.
“Hotel Astor” sets the phantasmic tone with a song influenced by a very real 1935 fire in downtown Green Bay that claimed the lives of a nurse and her hearing-impaired patient. Schoepp rewrites their story as he sings, “Should I not try to save you / I would be haunted till my dying day / Should I not leave with you / I would be haunted, honey, either way.” The barroom build and strong guitar work only accentuate the tension.
From there, the apparitions are of Schoepp’s own making, personal or observed ghosts that conjure old emotions and regrets that refuse to fade. On the sparse, acoustic “Paris Syndrome,” Schoepp and an unknown partner are “disconnected,” which forces a confession: “I am lost.” The desperation amid the slow piano march of “Solo Quarantine” feels like the ghost of a missed opportunity as the singer sings, “Sometimes I feel like the walls are closing in.”
That’s not to say May Day is eerie or even dark on the whole. Schoepp’s work has never come close to such descriptors over the last 15 years. Instead, the music is compelling and the melodies memorable, especially as he takes to the piano for the first time. Together with his brother and longtime musical partner Tanner Schoepp, the pair have crafted a fine companion to 2019’s Primetime Illusion while potentially putting some old ghosts to rest in the process.