Gospel Gossip
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Gospel Gossip

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GOSPEL GOSSIP
Sing into My Mouth
Guilt Ridden Pop

There's an unspoken temptation for an ambitious musician, though it's perhaps not exclusively a musician's challenge. Like any discipline, music can lure you to ever-greater heights of technical prowess. Thus, symphonies follow sonatas, jazz orchestras follow quintets, and concept albums follow EPs. Yet the hardest thing to do is often to not do the hardest thing, following instinct down a path of lesser resistance, leaving melodies unvarnished and edges jagged.

This is the direction I find my thoughts tending toward while watching Gospel Gossip—a raw, ragged quartet from Northfield with 77 shows, a couple hundred miles, and a stunningly compelling debut album under their belts—perform a set at the Hexagon Bar. Their sound is kinetic—propelled by Ollie Moltaji's frenetic drumming and Justin Plank's furiously driven bass—but also awash in cascading, echoing guitar and fizzing synth textures, courtesy of singer/guitarist Sarah Nienaber and keyboardist Deanna Steege. By set's end, Moltaji will have broken multiple sticks, often without noticing for several bars ("I've been working out," he jokingly explains later), and Nienaber will have ground her tiny Fender Mustang into the Hexagon's stage, breaking a string essential for their set's final song and cutting the whole show short.

Their disappointment at the show's abrupt ending is palpable. Plank laments that he had been practicing specifically for their closer, and Nienaber promises not to let him down in the future. It'd be easy to ascribe their desire to finish strong to youthful vigor; after all, Nienaber is still in school at Carleton College, and the rest of the band members aren't much older. But standing outside of the Hex in freezing temperatures, it feels more like simple heart: a need to meet one's own expectations, regardless of anyone else's.

Gospel Gossip began with a collaboration between Nienaber and Moltaji, although Moltaji and Plank had already been playing together in a hardcore band. "It was kind of like Big Black," says Moltaji, "and then Sarah filmed us once, and I started playing music with Sarah, and then we talked to Justin—it was all kind of haphazard, but it turns out that it was a pretty good mix."

"We played for a long time with just the three of us," adds Nienaber. "Then I got really into Echo and the Bunnymen and [Ollie] already was, so it was my dream to add a synth player." Enter Steege—whose keyboard work tips the band's sound into an equilibrium between raucous and swirling—and the band was ready to record its Guilt Ridden Pop debut, Sing into My Mouth.

On record, the band makes up in breathing room what they lose in fury. The songs draw inspiration from the '80s (the Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, Wire) and '90s (Catherine Wheel, Ride, Belly) in equal measure, while avoiding both the '90s disdain for the '80s and the '80s disdain for grit. Plank's bass rumbles along with the kind of thick, nasal tone that takes aggressive picking to generate, and Moltaji keeps steady and insistent time on the drums.

Nienaber's vocals are often breathlessly desperate, but the lyrics are by turns gauzily impressionistic and razor-sharp. "The moon is out and the streets are wet," she sings on "Shadows Are Bent," "So tonight you've got me shaking/You're just happy as long as you've got something/So tonight I don't think I'll be talking." They're the kind of words that hang between telling a story and painting a scene, and as the song unspools through slowdowns and ramp-ups, it lands finally on a note of fragile certainty: "You make me something, baby."

Sing into My Mouth is an auspicious debut, a record that feels like a harbinger of bigger, hairier, more sprawling albums to come, and thus a record that future fans can hold up as the beginning of something brilliant, should it work out that way.

There's a distance to travel between here and there, though, a fact that Gospel Gossip are well aware of. Take, for instance, the double-edged sword of the Minneapolis scene. "It's limiting in some ways," says Moltaji, "because if you become big in Minneapolis, how are you gonna get out of it, but when you do get out of it, there's not a lot [of places] to play. We feel good being in Northfield because we're kind of distant. [But] we love embracing communities and there's a music community in Minnesota that isn't seen very well. Like, you don't see Unicorn Basement or Baby Guts or the Connection on the Current. You hear all the big bands, but there's a really great underground. We like being a part of that."

Considering that even the bigger bands in Minnesota are still well in the underground nationally, we're talking about a subset of a subset here, but that's part of what choosing simpler paths entails. You could polish your sound, tailor it to some demographic, and then grind on that for years, waiting for your big break. Or you could just choose to work with what's ar - City Pages


Listening to Gospel Gossip is like finding a 20 in the wash. Actually, scratch that - it's like finding a kilo of Columbian non-dairy creamer in the wash. These kids just showed up out of nowhere and dropped a brilliant debut album in my lap. (Specifically, this "nowhere" is called Northfield, Minn.)

The two or three critics who've even bothered to review "Sing Into My Mouth" have usually pigeonholed this three-piece as a run-of-the-mill shoegazers and called it a day, but there's more to Gospel Gossip than the commonplace "wall of sound." Yes, they do indeed have a Roland RE-150 Space Echo making the songs all angsty and dissonant (to use my favorite clichés), but the record just has too much else going on to be classified so bluntly. Remember the entomology of shoegaze: a term developed from band members' stoic delivery, standing frozen in place, eyes locked on one's own pigeon-toed chucks, concentrating only on the droning, endless waves of malcontent and noise pouring from one's own six-string. This image doesn't fit Gospel Gossip for me.

I can't imagine anyone in the band standing still for up-tempo, sex-stained numbers like "Revolutions in Physics" or "Mt. Virgil." These are songs that pulse with such energy that I instead picture the band hopping around the stage like coked-out, rabid jackrabbits, knocking over mic-stands, slipping on vomit and generally doing the opposite of standing still, especially with lead Sarah Nienaber's voice veering closer to The Stooges' Iggy Pop than My Bloody Valentine's Belinda Butcher. Actually, Nienaber sounds a lot more like Sue Tompkins from Life Without Buildings, but no one knows who she is so I'll hold my tongue. (As long as I'm off topic, I'll mention that Sarah looks frighteningly like an 11-year-old version of our stacks manager's girlfriend.)

Anyway … I love her voice. Her delivery is beautifully varied, from a lullaby sing-song to raging-alcoholic shrieking, which is useful for the range of "Sing Into My Mouth." "Shadows are Bent" uses such a catchy, happy melody you might call it neo-twee (if you were a pretentious asshole like me, anyway). The deliberately epic "Lucky Lemmings" is straight-up post-rock goodness with a good two minutes of teasing, a five-minute plateau and a solid minute-long climax. Two songs, "Maybe" and "Next," approximate the lo-fi sound of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone of all things (but less depressing).

In fact, the urge to diversify might be its one weak point, as a few songs are seemingly throwaways. As near as I can work out, they were just dicking around with the electronics trying to make neat sounds. I guess this practice is actually the makeup of its own genre, but, well, whatever.

Right now, the band's too small to make it out to the West Coast, but with a release this good, their launch into the weird world of the "indie-famous" isn't impossible, and my fearless prediction of the day is that we'll be seeing a lot more of these Minnesotans.



By Jesse Bo Widmark, an architectural engineering senior and a business director for KCPR, San Luis Obispo, 91.3 FM. - Mustang Daily


Discography

Sing Into My Mouth

Release Date: December 13, 2007
Label:Guilt Ridden Pop
Length:43:52

Track Listing:
1 Home Is Where The Hibah Is
2 Revolutions In Physics
3 Wire
4 (Maybe)
5 Shadows Are Bent
6 Lucky Lemmings
7 (Next)
8 Rainbow Magical
9 RE-150
10 Space Echo
11 Wind
12 (Fall)
13 Mt. Virgil

Sing Into My Mouth has received national radio and satellite radio airplay, with a focus on college stations.

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Bio

Members Sarah Nienaber (guitar/vocals) and Ollie Moltaji (drums) met at Carleton College in Northfield, MN, where they drank whiskey, jammed, and fell in love in their dorm's laundry room. They honed their sound with bass player Justin Plank, and later added the synth-keyboard stylings of Deanna Steege (Unicorn Basement). Together, the band has gelled and created a sound reminiscent of early-90's shoegazers like The Cure, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, and the Smiths – with tastes of the Raveonettes and the Jesus & Mary Chain. Their debut album, Sing Into My Mouth, has garnered rave reviews – and landed the band a spot on First Avenue's coveted "Best New Bands of 2007" list. From the blog Minneapolisf***ingrocks, "Sing Into My Mouth juxtaposes yearning, bitterly hopeful, highly catchy jangle-pop songs with deeply introspective psychedelic freak-outs which have a surprising amount of depth and sonic texture." Their sound is the result of freedom and boredom in Northfield. Moltaji explains, "There's not really any scene to have to fit into down here, unless you're in a jam band. So we were free to just play the music however we felt like playing it." It is with such freedom that they embarked on a haphazard tour after answering a craigslist ad to transport a pair of Siberian Huskies across the country. Their passion to make honest, true-to-heart music and build a name for themselves the old-fashioned way is what sets them apart from other musicians their age, often catering to an elusive commercial market. Sing Into My Mouth has spurred an enormous buzz, slating Gospel Gossip as the "next big thing." City Pages' Steve McPherson explains, "Sing into My Mouth is an auspicious debut, a record that feels like a harbinger of bigger, hairier, more sprawling albums to come, and thus a record that future fans can hold up as the beginning of something brilliant, should it work out that way." For fans of new wave, DIY, and the unbridled enthusiasm of talented youth