Gospel Gossip - Gospel Gossip (Old Blackberry Way)

Gospel Gossip – Gospel Gossip (Old Blackberry Way)

Gospel Gossip have been around since 2007 and were tipped from the off with their inaugural Sing Into My Mouth album. The big noises on the US indie scene really sat up and took notice when the band came out with their Drift EP in 2009, particularly with ‘Sippy Cup’ which managed to be a minor classic by virtue of being both wasted and foot-stomping in one and the same moment.

It’s been four years since then. They’ve not exactly been inactive; the band has played plenty, both as themselves and as part of a tangled web of musicians in the Twin Cities conurbation. From the Gospel Gossip camp, Sarah Nienaber in particular won our affections in the meantime with IS/IS, a half joking side-project that got serious (and rather good) all of a sudden. But there’s been no new material from Gospel Gossip until this, their new self-titled album.

I gave the album repeated and attentive listens while road tripping recently – on the snazzy stereo in the rented Jeep, on the boom-box in motels, finally on the cans during hours of airport ennui – and it has more than repaid the love and attention. The overwhelming first impression is that it’s much more an immersive and wrap-around sound than we’ve previously experienced from the band. It was enough to fuel in-car discussions while we drove for hours on the snow-covered back roads of southern Utah. A word that kept coming up was ‘shimmer’, the way that it has some sort of internal glow. Sarah’s voice is well back in the mix for sure; not lost, more given equal billing with jangle guitar and hi-hats. Yes there are power chords, as in the opening of ‘Snow Came’ but nothing here is anywhere near as pop-obvious as they were four years ago. Elsewhere, as in ‘The Sun’, the vocals arch and twist, writhing and struggling to get up and run.

Once the record had had been round the block a few times, I fired some opinions and a couple of questions in the general direction of Sarah and the band.

On the question of where the hell they’d been for four years, Sarah had this to say –

“Recording took a long time. Our first sessions began back in the winter of 2010, immediately after the four-song ‘Drift EP’ was released. We spent a few days in the studio and ultimately trashed everything that we did. An early version of ‘4th of July’ was tracked then, but since re-recorded. For two years we went in a few days at a time to track or mix, a month or two of reflection would follow, and then we’d go back in to either reconfigure or build upon what was already there. Each song was its own world, its own problem to solve. Everything that we’ve recorded in the past has been more or less a snapshot of the band in the moment. And I think that can be good, the immediacy thing, but it wasn’t working for these songs. They needed time.

“When you first write a song, and even after you’ve tracked it, it feels like its part of you. It feels impossible to be objective and know what it needs or how it could improve. We took so much time with these songs, I started to feel completely disassociated from them. The album began to feel like this broken-apart puzzle floating in front of us. And I think it’s good, to let something sort of take on a life of its own, to let your ego and preconceptions fade away from the thing you’re making. I don’t even know how we knew when it was done, or when we knew it was done. I just know that the moment came, and I’m really glad that it did. I think that because we took so much time, we really learned how to use the studio in a way that we didn’t know before.”

I also checked out my thoughts, that it was a journey of long, flowing, immersion rather than pop-punch?

Sarah Nienaber again…. “before, I think we were good at writing catchy power-pop songs, and at the same time we had intense admiration for psychedelic and shoegaze music… but we weren’t successful at integrating those things. We’d write a quick pop song with a 3 or 4 minute psych jam tacked onto the end… Our live show kind of went that way too. And I don’t think that was bad, but this album is much less that way.. contrasting sentiments / sounds are juxtaposed more like collisions than comparisons, if that makes any sense.”

Gosh, I don’t know if she and I use shoegaze in exactly the same way, but I sure as hell know where she’s coming from. And as for calling it psych, this is an album that actually makes sense of the word way more than the usual self indulgent self-abuse labouring under that title.

It’s funny that this has come along at a time when there is much talk about the supposed death of the album as a format. This is a collection of ten tracks, each of which could work on their own, but which really makes much more sense taken as a collection and in that order. The band have exchanged fresh faced enthusiasm for a new maturity, and in the process come up with a cohesive collection: a keeper that gets better with each play, just like records used to do.


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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.