If you came of age in the 1990s, there's probably something on Ghost Hands' self-titled debut album that will take you back to your plaid-shirt, torn-jeans glory days.
"One girl told us, 'You guys are so '90s, in a really not-ironic way,'" said James Glaves, who plays guitar and sings in the band, and does all their recording and sound engineering.
As pointed out by Seneca, '90s hit song "Closing Time" and my best friend's Class of '99 yearbook quote: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." Ghost Hands began when Glaves and Sonny Ogle (guitar and vocals) decided to quit The Wagner Logic, a psychedelic-influenced rock band from Kasilof. Glaves said he and Ogle were ready for a different kind of sound.
"That music was really psychedelic and multilayered and complex, and for me personally, I wanted something more stripped down -- guitars, drums and bass. I wanted it to sound like it was a band playing," Glaves said.
After leaving The Wagner Logic, Glaves and Ogle were recording music out of Glaves' home studio in Kasilof when in walked Troy Anniskett for a recording session. They knew him from the music scene, but not well.
"[Anniskett] is an unassuming guy; he doesn't say a lot and when he does his voice is so low you often can't hear what he says. It's like the opposite of a dog whistle," Glaves said.
Anniskett played "For Now," a forlorn-sounding song with a catchy acoustic guitar riff and raw, melodic vocals. On the Ghost Hands album, the track is augmented by swirling electric guitar and drums. It recalls the melancholy sweetness that sometimes showed up in alternative '90s rock and Glaves says that song, along with the others Anniskett brought to the session, were what launched them into Ghost Hands.
"We knew Troy was good from [Anchorage band Shy Bones], but when he came down and sang those songs we were just -- there's no way I'm going to let anyone else get: a, this guy, and b, these songs."
Shortly after Anniskett, Ogle and Glaves got together, they added Andy Tholberg on bass and drummer Greg Geddes. Since then, the band has largely been based in Anchorage, where they opened for The Melvins in September 2012.
Glaves' described the Ghost Hands sound as "'90s-driven guitar rock with hints of pychedelia." Most of the songs on their debut album are based on material written by Anniskett. A lot of the tracks have what Glaves called "straightforward heavy guitar with no weird nonsense."
But Glaves' and Ogle's psychedelia-tinged past creeps in as well. It's present in some of the restrained, atmospheric electronic accompaniment that crops up and comes to the forefront in two instrumental tracks in the middle of the album, which Glaves called "the black sheep" of the collection.
The song title, "The Hangover Jam," is a matter-of-fact description of one of these tracks. After drinking too much one night with Ogle and not getting anything done, Glaves said, "we woke up hungover the next morning and said -- well, we have to do something to make up for being such losers."
The result is a wandering, ambient song. Using a harmonic octave generator with his guitar, Ogle produced a sound that is something like a pipe organ or the sci-fi effects of a theramin. The song builds tension until it's broken up by a rolling electric bass line. Matt Hopper also makes a cameo on the track on guitar.
Glaves said it's not a song they often play live, but they may make an exception for an upcoming CD release party performance Friday, Nov. 22.
"The thing about this album is that we planned on getting it out a long time ago," said Glaves. He hopes people listening "finish the last song and say, 'Wow, that wasn't too long and it was fun and let's do it again.'"
If you're a fan of Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr., Elliott Smith or Modest Mouse, you might like Ghost Hands too.
album release party
With SJ + Drums and The Sweeteners
When: 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22
Where: Tap Root, 3300 Spenard Rd.
Tickets: $10 at the door and at taprootalaska.com
By Victoria Barber