By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Electra glide in blue
Last Beat Records
There truly is nothing new under the sun anymore, and to describe a band by placing it in a handy niche is no longer tantamount to calling it unoriginal, but the only way to deal with the staggering amount of product out there. That disclaimer issued, Spinning Ginny--the songwriting and playing team of Patrick Woody (guitar and bass) and Stephanie Gould (vocals and guitar, lyrics)--is the kind of gently flowing, ethereal stream of shimmering guitars and soaring female vocals that conjures up mental pictures whose edges appear gauzily out of focus.
Dreamlike and possessing a beauty that's sometimes almost pastoral and other times possessed of a detached and oddly subtle sadness, this kind of music can invoke an enervating lull: Put the CD on, wake up four hours later with the dog licking your face. Happily, the softly falling pace of this record only serves to reinforce the moody interiors that Spinning Ginny explores.
Writing with fellow players such as John Wilkins (drums) and Loay Hadidi (guitar) in all sorts of combinations--but almost always in support of Gould's lyrics--the group maintains enough freshness and momentum to keep the listeners' interest. Think of the Sundays with a few cups of coffee in them and you're in the ballpark. It's a departure for Last Beat, a label that seems to prefer the crash and clangor of bands like rubberbullet or Mess to Spinning Ginny's acoustically driven musings, but it's a good one.
Gould's voice is powerful, yet flexible, and complements the wide-band roar of Small's electric guitars, which are often content to whoosh along almost in the background. Although she writes oblique commentaries about crises of the heart ("I want you/You should want me too," from "Blue Light, Silver Spark") and head ("Ain't that American?" she asks between abstractly descriptive verses), she correctly divines the paths around the pitfalls of "sensitive" songwriting. When she sings something like "It's in the way I feel...invisible...small" (the title track) she may seem sad, subdued--even defeated--but never sappy. She's also nimble enough in both her writing and her singing to avoid that sense of superiority--of thinking and feeling at someone--that has always gotten in Kristen Hersh's way.
No matter how wan or distant the music may sound, there always comes an affirmation: On "Small" she sings "I was alive," but there's a resolve implied which says she'll be alive again, perhaps even stronger for her knowledge that "this is where the smile breaks." On "April's Mood," she almost exults "I feel it too," knowing--as any performer or artist must--that the fact of sharing is almost more important than the thing being shared.