Gin Wigmore: Holy Smoke

The very familiarity of her vocals paradoxically is what makes her different. This is ear candy and recalls AM chart singles from a time when hit 45s were more important than whole albums.

Gin Wigmore

Holy Smoke

Label: Universal Motown
US Release Date: 2010-03-16
UK Release Date: 2009-03-16

New Zealand singer-songwriter Gin Wigmore is an enigma. On the one hand, she has a distinctive, raspy voice that can make her instantly recognizable. On the other, she has a chameleon-like quality that allows her to blend in on each of the ten self-penned tracks on her debut full-length album and sound like someone else you’ve heard before.

You’d swear it was the English Amy Winehouse singing on the retro soul “Hey Ho”, and that it must be the Welsh songbird Duffy on the power pop anthem “Golden Ship”. This may be because Gin (that’s the whole, single name she goes by on her album) is a young artist in search of her own identity. She tries on different styles and attempts to make them her own, but instead the songs bear the marks of what Gin wants to be rather than her authentic voice.

Except Gin does such a good job of making every song infectious. Every cut comes across as one you somehow already know and with which you want to sing along. The very familiarity of her vocals paradoxically is what makes her different. This is ear candy and recalls AM chart singles from a time when hit 45s were more important than whole albums. No wonder she’s on the Motown record label!

Even her innocent girl demeanor seems contradictory. When Gin performed at the KGSR radio program breakfast show at South by Southwest, the host asked her how she felt about having to get up early in the morning to sing at 7:30 am after playing late the night before at Stubb’s. Gin responded candidly with the F-word and immediately was told to shut up and sing. Okay, not exactly in those words -- after all, two thirds of the Dixie Chicks (aka the Courtyard Hounds) were to play later that morning on the same bill -- but her microphone was cut off and she was asked to immediately play her next song. The crowd gave her an extra long ovation in appreciation for her honesty and talent. She did more to wake people up than the hotel coffee.

Okay, maybe I just wanted an excuse to relate that anecdote in tribute to the pleasure that moment gave me. Seeing Gin live made me a fan before I heard her record, but even if I hadn’t seen her perform, this album would have won me over with its mix of angelic vocals and devil-may-care attitude. Or is that fiendish-sounding singing voice as she snidely growls throughout the album and combines this with her uplifting spirit on songs like “Dying Day” that declare the importance of finding sanctuary and salvation. Gin can crack the whip on “Mr. Freakshow” one minute and declare she “don’t ever wanna ever be a lady”, and then sweetly croon about needing love as she accompanies herself on mandolin on the lovely “I Do”.

That’s the puzzle of Gin. She is all over the place and that makes her mysterious. While this schizoid combination might not work in a more self-important artist, Gin seems content with just having fun. The resulting disc makes you feel the same way.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.