In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: For Horrors Week, we’re once again talking about songs with the word “ghost” in the title.
Sometimes a cliché is just a cliché, and other times it’s a tradition, like pop music’s enduring tradition of using the supernatural as a metaphor for romantic love. When in the throes of infatuation, it’s easy to conclude that every little thing she does is magic, or that she has an invisible touch, yeah. It’s just as easy to default to supernatural language when wading through a breakup, as Tegan And Sara do in the deceptively jaunty “Walking With A Ghost.” Though, where most songs about being haunted by a love gone sour are admissions of lasting effect, “Walking With A Ghost” is an exercise in post-heartbreak denial.
Canadian identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin split the singing and songwriting duties, and Sara takes the lead on “Walking With A Ghost,” in which she speciously insists she’s exorcised a past romantic entanglement. The song consists of just a handful of phrases, some of which are directed toward her former paramour. The other lyrics appear to be directed to a third party, perhaps the type of close friend who listens to you talk about how you’re completely over it and does you the kindness of pretending to believe you. “No matter which way you go / No matter which way you stay / You’re out of my mind,” Sara sings in the verses. Then comes the chorus: “I was walking with a ghost / I said ‘Please, please don’t insist.’”
At least Sara seems convinced of her own narrative, judging from the verb tense in the chorus. She isn’t currently walking with a ghost, she was walking with a ghost, and now she’s allegedly reclaimed her peace. But because the lyrics are so simple and insistent, the repetition suggest Sara is trying to convince herself of her emotional well-being, and if someone else is also convinced by it, all the better. “Walking With A Ghost” has probably helped plenty of people through the last stretch of a messy split, and it’s a great song for that purpose if the lyrics are read literally, but it’s a better song for that pre “I’m over it” phase, the phase in which it seems like no amount of sage smoke will vanquish the evil spirits.