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Anthony Carew

Introducing: Companion

By February 13, 2013

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Name: Companion
From: Brooklyn, New York
Story: Pepi Ginsberg's brand new band
Sound: Geometric guitar-pop: sharp angles, ricocheting vocals, arty intersections

Pepi Ginsberg released a run of impressive solo records in the '00s, undoing the usual singer-songwriterisms with her sharp words, deep voice, and Dylan-goes-electric-and-then-maybe-gets-electrocuted sound.

After moving towards something more electric-guitar-driven and angular on 2009's East Is East, Ginsberg abandoned her own name to turn this budding new lineup into a blown-out band. Now, she's joined by co-vocalists Anna Thorngate and Amy Carrigan (whom Ginsberg had sung with in the social-club-ish Brooklyn Ladies Choir) are now co-vocalists and keyboardists, with the lineup rounded out by Kirk Schoenherr (guitar), Tim Lappin (bass), and Justin Veloso (drums).

This big sound, with its contrapuntal vocal parts and ladies-harmonies, its arty tangles of guitar and brief bursts of harsh din, feels almost Dirty Projectors-ish. The songs are definitely dense compositions; often starting and stopping, reinventing themselves mid-way through, before returning to the original pitch; the proliferation of slashes in song-titles suggesting the deliberate combination of once-separate songs. Vocally, Ginsberg is still quite the presence on the mic; with those familiar shades of Dylan (in the movies) and Eleanor Friedgberger still persisting, even as her once-gruff, near-masculine voice is pitched-up pretty to a far higher register.

Ginsberg's singing is at its most beautiful on Companion's debut, self-titled set; sounding far more beautiful than it ever did back on her solo records (of which 2008's summery, strummy Red is probably the best). On the outro to closer "New Age/Real Change," she warbles wonderfully; "Only" finds Ginsberg singing out over a sad, synthy song that rises up in spasmodic, jazzy guitar-sharp outbursts; "20th Century Crime" is so tenderly, passionately orated as to feel like a soul song; and, on "No Kid/Blast," Ginsberg sings "you take me for granted/every day, I can't stand it" in a voice so beautifully pained that the emotions ring profound.

Oh, and, this is totally burying the lead and all, given I should've just typed it up front, but: the Companion LP may be my favorite record of 2013 so far, and I've listened to it a lot.

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