Written by Mackenzie Fluharty
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Ben Cooper’s 2007 album Ghost has easily become the soundtrack of my year and the background music for my DLR work. “Welcome Home,” the second song on the album and listed above, was the gateway song for me, sinking its claws deep into me by opening with wind chimes and with the verse “Sheets are swaying from an old clothesline/Like a row of captured ghosts over old dead grass.” Cooper released the solo album in 2007 under the name Radical Face, and has since released two other albums under that name. On his website, Cooper calls Ghost a “concept” album, saying that he pulled his inspiration from “the idea of houses having memories, and people leaving ghosts behind whenever they move from one place to the next. An idea that whatever we do in our homes is collected in the walls and might come out and haunt whoever moves in next.” Cooper claims that when he was in the process of the writing the songs, he noticed that “the songs are all short stories, tied together with a theme.”
“Wrapped in Piano Strings” is one of my favorites because of the story-like quality that Cooper works into his songs; the second verse in particular has become one of my favorites in the whole song: “I watched you crawl into my bed/With curses spilling from your head, / You said, ‘We’re just the walking dead.’ / So I pulled the trigger and we floated off” and then changes tempo, invoking the image of a village dance with clapping hands and swishing skirts.
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Cooper’s unique instrumentation (which includes banjo, accordion, organ and acoustic guitar) meets with computer tweaking and sequencing, creating something you’d hear in ghost story movies: wind chimes, the rocking sound of a train on tracks, and the creak of old rocking chairs and floor boards. Cooper also weaves human voices into some of his songs. The voices are distinct but have an echoing quality to them that makes them seem far off. The pitch of the voices makes it fairly clear that they belong to children, but what’s being said is unclear. These disembodied voices can cause quite a scare if you happen to be listening to the album while home alone, especially when one of the voices is simply laughing. Cooper’s music feels like exploring abandoned places that clearly used to be heavily populated, and is something that I would recommend to anyone trying to get in the “haunted” mood.
Cooper, Ben. “Radical Face Dot Com.” Radical Face. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014. <http://www.radicalface.com/music>.