It's So Hard to Tell Who's Going to Love You the Best
With her hoarse, gasping, masculine voice persistently reminiscent of both Patti Smith and Bob Dylan, it's no surprise Pepi Ginsberg so grandly evokes the archetype of the rock-n-roll poet. On third —but first widely-available— album, the creative-writing-major-turned-singer-songwriter showcases a tendency towards nimble lyricism and considered imagery. Singing things like “the dull boxed/to the long-hand of the clock” and "I know that we are strangers to this weather/where curiosity has no measure" and “he's 90 per cent real/just like perfect fiction,” it's clear that Ginsberg is a dame unafraid of the turn-of-phrase.
Like her musical heroes —twin lovers of Rimbaud, I note— it's clear that Ginsberg works at her text; whittling away line by line, parsing things for meaning. Vocally, then, it's no surprise that she shows an open fondness for each chosen utterance; Ginsberg singing each lyrical lick with a loving devotion: carefully, coyly teasing out every syllable via her stirring, slurring voice.
We Rode Our Bikes Through the Hot City Summer
This disc plays up to this 'classic' songwriter's persona by matching it entirely to vintage audio. Produced and played-upon by Dr. Dog frontman Scott McMicken, it's no surprise that things sound the way they do: all old, thick, fuzzy. Yet, where the Dog's retrophonic dreaming is steeped in endlessly upbeat old-pop optimism, Ginsberg prefers more downbeat measures: Red's casual, laggard, laidback way coloring McMicken's warm, weathered, analog aesthetic a different hue.
All decaying piano chords, off-the-beat bass, bung-note acoustic strums, and thwacked tambourine, Red has a loose, communal, jam-like feeling; Ginsberg's mid-tempo acoustic tunes sprawling out like tender, under-the-influence reminiscences. On "Nothing More," McMicken rolls two-inch tape on the back-porch of Dr. Dog bandmate Toby Leaman's grandparents' house in York, Pennsylvania; cicadas humming as Ginsberg, strumming, sings a song out to stir up the sticky senses of sweltering days melting into itchy nights.
The whole album essentially retains that feeling: Ginsberg's poetry summoning the restless, sleepless, seemingly endless feeling of sweaty evenings. Most of the time, that makes for languorous tunes, but the killer "Ghosts of Perdition" positively lets rip: pushed-forth push-beat drums and a wicked, highlife-like guitar-lick from McMicken dressing Ginsberg in some scuffy dancing shoes; the songsmith wailing "who can question language/when they tell us it's a necessary attempt?" as she pirouettes into the unending, unspoken summer night.
Record Label: Park the Van
Release Date: 22 April 2008