a ghost is born

  • Record Label: Nonesuch
  • Release Date: Jun 22, 2004
Metascore
81

Universal acclaim - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Unlike the first three Wilco albums and even more than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, A Ghost is Born requires careful listening.
  2. On almost every level, Jeff Tweedy and Co. have concocted the perfect follow-up to an epochal, career-defining record--taking greater risks and yielding deeper rewards--and finding more challenging ways to channel pain that just won’t quit.
  3. Uncut
    100
    A Ghost Is Born feels like a band learning to be spontaneous and unencumbered, and coming up with their most engaging album yet. [Album of the Month, Jul 2004, p.94]
  4. Filter
    91
    Feels more timeless, more effortless. [#11, p.91]
  5. If Foxtrot's songs were fractured pop, then Ghost is just plain fracture, a soft and brutal self-examination that pulls no punches even as it manages to remain carefully elliptical.
  6. For the most part, Ghost channels its shaggy sound into pop music. True, it's pop music that constantly threatens to erupt into noise or fade into silence, but it's still hard not to hum along.
  7. A work like this is only self-indulgent if its accoutrements aren't justifiable. Wilco makes every note count on this album: however miraculously, it all manages to cohere. And the songs are undeniably stunning.
  8. Every aspect of the project is an improvement on the last.
  9. What makes Ghost succeed so magnificently... is how the directness, the openness of the lyrics in general, is so beautifully matched to the damaged music, which is itself rife with symbolism and meaning.
  10. The songs are structured firmly in the classic tradition, evoking Dylan, the Band, Hendrix and Beatles. They're enriched by a bottomless well of melodic invention and find an emotional core in Tweedy's shy, plaintive vocals. [20 Jun 2004]
  11. If the album weren't so agreeably off-kilter--short, whispery tunes alternate with long, rambling epics--its mix of guitars and piano would almost seem like the stuff you'd hear on rockers like Layla or Abbey Road.
  12. This time, as well as simply delivering the goods, Wilco come bearing a basket of extras.
  13. The flaws in A Ghost is Born are almost as interesting as the album's considerable triumphs.
  14. The Wire
    80
    Musically and lyrically, A Ghost Is Born is translucent, weightless, supernatural, capable of drifting back and forth across rock'n'roll's state lines at will. [#246, p.61]
  15. This is a dramatic, ambitious album that dares you to rise to its challenge.
  16. A Ghost Is Born hardly sound[s] like a retread of YHF, but the languid, ghostly song structures, the periodic forays into dissonance and the pained, hesitant vocals from Jeff Tweedy that were so much a part of that album also take center stage here.
  17. It's in the mournful, captivating, meditative, exasperating, pretentious, masterfully constructed experience of A Ghost Is Born that Tweedy and Wilco become true iconoclasts.
  18. Q Magazine
    80
    Even more meandering than its celebrated, if somewhat cold, predecessor. It's also more confident, more coherent, yielding an all-enveloping warmth that's entirely resistant to any iPod shuffle function. [Jul 2004, p.119]
  19. Where Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sounded dense and surreal, the bulk of Ghost is spare and earthy, with streaks of Crazy Horse, the Band, the Beatles and the Replacements.
  20. Ghost is not a lot of fun. Still, it's an accomplishment, because it's an angry album.
  21. Entertainment Weekly
    75
    For someone [Tweedy] whose longtime strength has been songwriting over all-out adventurousness, many of the more traditional tunes seem, ironically, half finished. [25 Jun 2004, p.161]
  22. Spin
    75
    There are flashes of Yankee's shimmer on Ghost, but the album is more elusive, more disjointed. [Jul 2004, p.103]
  23. Despite being one of the weaker albums Wilco has released, A Ghost is Born is nonetheless the most fascinating.
  24. Magnet
    70
    Finds Wilco switching moods, tones, influences and instruments enough to suggest a band on a pub crawl in search of its winterteeth. [#64, p.112]
  25. Its most difficult and uncompromising album to date.
  26. Wilco's ideas are unremarkable, but are worked out with intelligence and striking conception. And as it happens, the new organic emphasis tables some of Wilco's lamer stylistic obsessions.
  27. Over the course of this album, you may laugh, frown, cry, cover your ears, or reach for the remote to fast-forward. But then you'll want to listen to it again.
  28. It's hard to imagine any of the suckers who fell for the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot hype striving to identify with, say, "Muzzle of Bees." Not impossible. Just hard.
  29. In the end, the ambitious misfires and pre-coffee drowsiness of A Ghost Is Born don't ruin the album entirely-- they only serve as distractions that make it much more difficult to excavate the band's strengths from the surrounding detritus.
User Score
8.8

Universal acclaim- based on 124 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 60 out of 67
  2. Negative: 4 out of 67
  1. Nov 9, 2015
    7
    It took me quite a while to get into "A Ghost is Born". While I still think it is a few steps below their best moments, repeated listening hasIt took me quite a while to get into "A Ghost is Born". While I still think it is a few steps below their best moments, repeated listening has changed my mind from thinking this was an average album to thinking it is a very good one.While parts of it are disappointing, this is mainly down to self indulgence on the part of the band rather than poor content. There are some good moments and some great moments but a little too often the person in charge of editing has left the room and the band are allowed to flog songs the way you would a dead horse. A couple of the tracks are 25 percent longer than they ever needed to be. "At Least That's What You Said" and "Hell Is Chrome" start the album well, but the rest of the album could have been alot better and crosses the line into self indulgence. There are better Wilco records but you could be listening to far worse. Full Review »
  2. Oct 12, 2014
    9
    How is a ghost born? Someone dies, of course. This is the outlook of this album, taking terrible things that happen in life and making themHow is a ghost born? Someone dies, of course. This is the outlook of this album, taking terrible things that happen in life and making them resolve hopefully, all these thoughts swirling around a character on the border of madness. Full Review »
  3. j30
    Sep 22, 2011
    8
    Decent follow up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. There's moment of musical bliss, but than there moments of over-indulgent noise that detracts fromDecent follow up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. There's moment of musical bliss, but than there moments of over-indulgent noise that detracts from it's high points. Full Review »