Last December, when I devised the original plan for this year’s list, I did so on something of a whim. I learn by trial-and-error. So far, everything has gone fairly well, with the exception of some lack of variety via the random number generator I used for the list. For instance, I have written about all but one of OutKast’s releases… in the last month alone. At the onset of the project, I raced through all of the Thursday catalog.
That said, I included albums without necessarily knowing how to approach them: chief among these selections are the instrumental albums I hold dear.
I love post-rock. A lot. I’m the type of writer who likes to have something, anything on in the background, but I prefer albums that are “white noisy” like the newest Godspeed You! Black Emperor album. Anything with a minimal amount of lyrics, so as not to be distracted.
While not in the same post-rock genre, the Ghosts series (from Nine Inch Nails’ frontman Trent Reznor and one of his partners-in-crime, Atticus Ross) is a sprawling masterwork which Reznor describes as “Music for daydreams.”
At 36 tracks long (!), Ghosts is divided into 4 acts. Each song is titled simply by its numeric order, and dubbed with its act. There would have been no way I could have gotten through all 4 acts in one sitting, so I split each of them into their own day. Today is the second in the series, Ghosts II, which include numbers 10 through 18. So, for example, the songs are titled “10 Ghosts II” (and as an organizational freak, I couldn’t be happier about it).
Even more exceptional about the work is that Reznor employed Rob Sheridan to design artwork for all 36 pieces. Because they are so incredible (and because I’d feel weird not including them all), here are each of them, along with a short description, since I don’t know how else to approach this album.
“10 Ghosts II” is a gorgeous, piano-driven with some shearing fuzz, like forcibly removing the fillings from your teeth.
“11 Ghosts II” is haunting and arid, and a throwback to The Fragile’s style on its sludgy, dark interior.
“12 Ghosts II” is also piano-driven with huge, soaring keyboards. As it closes, the volume of the track gets overdriven to the point of sounding like it’s coming out through a pipe. One of my favorites. Those keys are so clutch.
“13 Ghosts II” is another gorgeous, slow-burning piano track, often sounding like it’s underwater. Definitely another favorite with its soft, metronome-like electric drum.
“14 Ghosts II” is a tribal masterpiece. No other way to say it. You need to hear it to believe it, else you’d think it was created for a National Geographic special.
“15 Ghosts II” is a bizarre, wet tune, with a syncopating sound of what could be bottles filled with liquid, offset by the inserts of shrieking crowd noise dubs (think Third Reich-esque chanting a la Marilyn Manson’s “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”). Intense.
“16 Ghosts II” is an 8-bit influenced track with some low-low guitar work (what could be the Robin Finck experience!), almost like a sinister Beck b-side.
“17 Ghosts II” is a melancholy, very Smashing Pumpkins-like tune that meanders without going anywhere.
“18 Ghosts II” is the last of the second act. It’s got some Com Truise-y keyboard action, and clocks in at over 5 minutes, making it the longest of section II. Also, because it is a little longer, it changes more than any of the other tracks, eventually leading to a rad, surfy guitar and some unreal depth on surround sound that makes it seem like it stretches for 10,000 leagues. Way trippy.
And now that I’ve written out the word “Ghosts” a bunch, it has lost its meaning entirely. Also, you really can’t go wrong with this as a purchase, because, as of press writing, at just $7.99 for the whole thing (all 36 tracks!), it’s a safe bet.
I also want to mention that on the Lights in the Sky tour, which has been, good God, 5 years now, the Ghosts songs that were played live were far and away the highlights of the evening. Almost a spiritual experience between the sensory overload and the theatrical score to back it up.
Good stuff when you need motivation to create.
From the Ghosts I-IV set, this is “14 Ghosts II” –
Standout tracks: “13 Ghosts II” and “14 Ghosts II”
Weakest track: “17 Ghosts II”
RIYL: Long-winded instrumentals. Caspian, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, This Will Destroy You, Explosions in the Sky, etc.