Essential New Music: Jeremy Enigk’s “Ghosts”

Jeremy Enigk shouldn’t be a hidden gem. Not after four albums with the legendary Sunny Day Real Estate and a number of solo projects. But for some reason, Enigk came across that way in 2017. His latest album, crowdfunded and released independently, didn’t appear on many end-of-the-year lists or 2017 retrospectives. Whatever it was that made Enigk easy to sweep under the rug last year seems stranger still when listening to Ghosts, a mystical and deeply beautiful effort that feels vital, not to be missed.

Ghosts seems like such an obvious title for a Jeremy Enigk album that it almost seems strange that he hasn’t used it before—his work has long dwelt on death and life thereafter. But never has he seemed so confident approaching oblivion than he does via the tidal wave of “The Long Wait Is Over” or the woozy tick-tock of “Sacred Fire.” Enigk harnesses the spirituality of How It Feels To Be Something On and brings it further into view, stripping back the grandiose, big-room rock aspects of that record and replacing them with measured requiems.

The songs on Ghosts are crafted masterfully. “Light And Shadow” opens up slowly with the icy refreshment of flurried wind on a mountaintop. “Victory” fills a room with sparse elements in a showcase of Enigk’s ever-mysterious voice. “Empty Row” trudges along with a funereal drama. All the while, these songs are more straightforward and giving than ever, diminished is the inscrutable imagery of Sunny Day. “What else can I say but I miss you?/I don’t have a right, and it’s not fair” Enigk croons on the stomping “Ancient Road.”

But anyone who hasn’t been paying attention since Sunny Day dissolved (for the second time) early on in the millennium will still have a ton to grasp onto here, especially those with an affinity for the band’s second run. “Onaroll,” perhaps the crowning jewel of this collection, gets loud enough to overtake Enigk’s voice for a bit while refreshing anew the strange, difficult-to-pin down emotional quality of his best work. As a whole, Ghosts embodies this refreshment, acting as a reminder that Enigk continues to be one of his generation’s best songwriters.

—Jordan Walsh