NYC Ghosts & Flowers

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NYC Ghosts & Flowers
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 16, 2000
RecordedAugust 1999–February 2000
Sonic Youth chronology
SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century
NYC Ghosts & Flowers
Sonic Youth studio album chronology
A Thousand Leaves
NYC Ghosts & Flowers
Murray Street

NYC Ghosts & Flowers is the eleventh studio album by American rock band Sonic Youth, released on May 16, 2000 by DGC Records. The highly experimental album is considered to be a reaction to the theft of the band's instruments in July 1999, when several irreplaceable guitars and effects pedals were stolen. NYC Ghosts & Flowers was the first album since Bad Moon Rising in which the band used prepared guitar.


As a result of the theft, the members of Sonic Youth relied upon "old guitars in their studio, unearthing instruments they hadn't used in years" which "along with equipment purchased to fulfill the remaining [...] dates [of the tour], would serve as the foundation for six new songs written over the next month", in addition to "Free City Rhymes" and "Renegade Princess", which were written prior to the tour. The band members later acknowledged that "the gear theft was somewhat of a blessing, if [also] a rather unwelcome and unpleasant one, in that it truly forced them to 'start over' and approach creating music with brand new boundaries".[1]


On this album, the influence of beat poetry on the band was strongly evident: The lyrics to most songs resembled the beat style; Lenny Bruce and D. A. Levy were name-checked; and the cover art was based on a painting by William S. Burroughs.


NYC Ghosts & Flowers was released on May 16, 2000 by record label DGC.[1]

A music video was released for the track "Nevermind (What Was It Anyway)". According to the band's official website, it was a proposed single that "never actually found its way into stores."[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[3]
Alternative Press3/5[4]
Blender3/5 stars[5]
Entertainment WeeklyB[6]
The Guardian3/5 stars[7]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[10]
The Village VoiceA[12]

NYC Ghosts & Flowers received an approval rating of 66 out of 100 on review aggregator website Metacritic, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[2] In a positive review for the Chicago Tribune, Greg Kot said "though Sonic Youth flirted with alternative-rock songcraft in the early '90s, these noise-rock renegades are once again happily viewing their guitars as hunks of wood, wire and infinite possibility." He went on to write, "No rock band makes the avant-garde sound quite this tactile and sensual."[13] also gave the album a positive review and stated, "Even while there isn't a single song here that holds together from beginning to end, even as the music makes only itself felt in halting jigsaw fashion... the album has a gloomy, unaccommodating tenacity that's hard to shake."[14] Mojo stated that "in the end, it's surprisingly worth it for the few great, strange tracks."[2] In Spin, Douglas Wolk hailed it as Sonic Youth's "artiest, most texturally spectacular album" yet, writing that it "fashions a link between the free-jazz of the New York Art Quartet and the psychotic spasms of 1978's no wave grail, No New York."[11] In NME's opinion, the album "burns with such a sense of direction and focus" that revealed the group to still be "a vital creative force" in music.[8]

According to Robert Christgau, NYC Ghosts & Flowers proved to be Sonic Youth's "dud by acclamation" among critics; he himself had given it a positive review in The Village Voice but later said the record's "meanderings", which had "captivated me in their ambiently environmental way, never fully reconnected" on later listens.[15] Select wrote that "the songs suffer from a lazy approach and the relentless repetition of unengaging chord patterns."[2] Billboard believed the record "either encapsulates Sonic Youth's most endearing or annoying qualities, depending on how one feels about the band and the spoken-word poetics from Kim Gordon."[16] Brent DiCrescenzo's review for Pitchfork was far more critical and assigned the album a score of 0.0 out of 10, with the critic panning it as "an unfathomable album which will be heard in the squash courts and open mic nights of deepest Hell." Commenting on the album's avant-garde roots, he said, "These are not new ideas. These are ideas that were arrogant and unlistenable upon birth thirty years ago."[9] DiCrescenzo later reevaluated his opinion of the album and, in 2013, remarked on the higher esteem with which he now held it: "I now love the record. It's unlike anything else; eerie and beautiful. [...] No, the lesson here is: beware the opinions of a kid right out of college." He also described Pitchfork's decimal scale as "knowingly silly" and "arbitrary".[17]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Sonic Youth (Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley).

1."Free City Rhymes"MooreMoore7:32
2."Renegade Princess"MooreMoore, Gordon, Ranaldo5:49
3."Nevermind (What Was It Anyway)"GordonGordon5:37
4."Small Flowers Crack Concrete"MooreMoore, Gordon, Ranaldo5:12
6."StreamXSonik Subway"MooreMoore2:51
7."NYC Ghosts & Flowers"RanaldoRanaldo7:52
Total length:42:18

Note: For the vinyl version, "Renegade Princess" moved to track 6, and "Side2Side" & "StreamXSonik Subway" were being reversed from the normal tracklist.


Year Chart Position
2000 French Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique 61[18]
Norwegian VG-lista 37[19]
UK Albums Chart 113[20]
US Billboard 200 172[21]


Sonic Youth
Additional personnel
  • Jim O'Rourke – bass, electronics ("Side2Side"), production, additional recording, additional mixing
  • William Winant – percussion ("Side2Side")
  • Rafael Toral – Spacestatic guitar ("Renegade Princess")


  1. ^ a b c " Discography – Album: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "Reviews for NYC Ghosts & Flowers by Sonic Youth". Metacritic. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  3. ^ Phares, Heather. "NYC Ghosts & Flowers – Sonic Youth". AllMusic. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  4. ^ Burgess, Aaron (July 2000). "Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Alternative Press (144): 81. Archived from the original on April 30, 2001. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  5. ^ Wolk, Douglas (October 2006). "Back Catalogue: Sonic Youth". Blender (52): 154–55.
  6. ^ Brunner, Rob (May 26, 2000). "NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Entertainment Weekly (542): 74. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  7. ^ Mulholland, Garry (June 2, 2000). "Sonic Youth: nyc ghosts and flowers (Geffen)". The Guardian. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Chick, Stevie (May 23, 2000). "NYC Ghosts & Flowers". NME: 41. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  9. ^ a b DiCrescenzo, Brent (April 30, 2000). "Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  10. ^ Kot, Greg (June 8, 2000). "NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  11. ^ a b Wolk, Douglas (July 2000). "Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Spin. 16 (7): 149–50. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert (August 22, 2000). "Consumer Guide: Getting Them Straight". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  13. ^ Kot, Greg (June 4, 2000). "Sonic Youth NYC Ghosts & Flowers (Geffen)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  14. ^ Hampton, Howard (July 20, 2000). "Sharps & Flats". Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 13, 2006). "Rather Exhilarating". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  16. ^ "Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Billboard. June 3, 2000. Archived from the original on October 29, 2000. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  17. ^ DiCrescenzo, Brent (January 10, 2013). ""I Gave Sonic Youth a 0.0 Rating on Pitchfork." – Arts + Culture – Time Out Chicago". Time Out. Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  18. ^ " – Sonic Youth – NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  19. ^ " – Sonic Youth – NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Retrieved January 20, 2013.
  20. ^ "Sonic Youth | Artist | Official Charts". Retrieved April 27, 2013.
  21. ^ "NYC Ghosts & Flowers – Sonic Youth | Billboard". Retrieved January 20, 2013.