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The Goldberg Sisters

The Goldberg Sisters

(Play It Again Sam; US: 8 Feb 2011; UK: Import)

Sister act, too?

The eponymous new album by the Goldberg Sisters (aka Adam Goldberg) may be somewhat of a novelty disc, one of those music ventures by an actor equated with quirky television (e.g., he starred as the title character the made for TV flick The Hebrew Hammer, for which he also contributed a song) and film (I Love Your Work, Dazed and Confused) projects, but it is also appealingly adventurous and opulently beautiful music. It has the space age vibe of those ‘70s glam albums—think David Bowie and Mott the Hoople—and sounds pleasingly retro without being fey. Goldberg takes the joke seriously. He employs everything from real violins and trumpets to Pro Tools and synthesizers to create sonic landscapes that would titillate and confuse the listener in the best possible ways.


Goldberg’s voice strangely resembles that of John Lennon from his early solo work (i.e., Mind Games). One could easily play this for friends as a lost Lennon album, and chances are they would believe it. The hoax would be even more credible thanks to Lennon-like song titles such as “Mother Please (The World Is Not Our Home)” and “Your Beautiful When You Die”. Goldberg layers the vocals behind a fog of fuzz so that one frequently is not sure about what he’s singing or whether he is verbally winking in a knowing manner. This adds an aura of heaviness to the velvety lushness of the instrumentation. And when he croons a rocking paean to the social psychologist “Erik Erikson”, complete with free-associative style lyrics, one cannot help but wonder if this is what Lennon would have done if he had bonded with Erikson instead of the primal therapist Janov.


While Goldberg professes that this album is largely the work of himself and his bearded twin sister, Celeste, the album was recorded and mixed at Aaron Espinoza’s (Earlimart) Ship Studio in Los Angeles, and Espinoza seems heavily involved in the creation of the album. Goldberg may have written all of the songs himself, but he and Espinoza co-produced the record. Espinoza’s involvement may explain its generally soft sound. Goldberg always seems on the edge of getting loud and in your face, but something seems to pull him back. This may be his own better instincts. The understated quality shows off his talents in a positive light, but presumably, Espinoza helped out in this way.


The Goldberg Sisters has a distinctly urban vibe. One would struggle to find a trace of folk or country on it, despite the use of acoustic guitars at different key moments. The music breathes sophistication with a hint of decadence. It evokes the feeling of taking too many pills or going to too many parties, without the unpleasantness of overdosing or not knowing where one is in the morning. That aspiration for being comfortably numb may seem dated today, but it’s not such a bad desire. In a world where everything can seem bleak and the search for meaning can seem like such a dauntless task, just chilling can be struggle enough. This record can be your pillow.

Rating:

Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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