The Goldberg Sisters: The Goldberg Sisters

Written by April 12th, 2011 at 11:23 am

The Goldberg Sisters
The Goldberg Sisters
(PIAS America)
Rating: ★★½☆☆

The Goldberg Sisters’ eponymous debut album could just as easily have been called “The Goldberg Variations” had Bach not claimed that title back in 1741 for his 30 harpsichord variations on an aria, an enduring work still recorded and performed today.

For there are no actual Goldberg Sisters – at least not on this disc. Rather, it is the latest twist, or variation, on the career of the prolific 40-year-old actor (Saving Private Ryan), director, screenwriter, and aspiring musician Adam Goldberg. Earlier, he had released music under the name LANDy and shown a fascination with Flaming Lips, whose Steven Drozd collaborated with Goldberg on the soundtrack to his 2003 directorial effort, I Love Your Work.

For this project, which Goldberg and Earlimart’s Aaron Espinoza co-produced using real instruments and aided by Pro Tools, he is joined by five other players – Roxanne Daner on violins/vocals, Andrew Lynch (keyboards/trumpet), Merritt Lear (violin/vocals), Eric Seigel (bass/guitar) and Derek Brown (drums).

You can see a Lips-onian sonic ambition on Goldberg Sisters’ ten cuts – the album continually reaches for the grandeur of psychedelicized orchestration (and sound effects) plus layered vocal tracks, all in the service of strong pop melodies with sweeping minor-key passages. There are many beautiful elements – the haunting “la, la, la, la, la” chants on “Shush,” the way that spare guitar chords slow down and then build up (with gentle horns and piano) for the coda of “Don’t Grow,” the Lennon-esque moans on “Mother Please (The World Is Not Our Home),” the sighing, murmuring disdain in Goldberg’s voice on “Third Person.”

A notation on the poster included with the CD urges listeners to wear headphones, a wise suggestion to better hear how much is musically happening. But what’s not happening are individual songs that come to the forefront through the personality of their lead vocals; Goldberg’s voice too often is too thin to be distinctive. As a result, you have an album you want to listen to repeatedly both to appreciate the rich, subtle arrangements and to try to remember individual tracks. It is both gorgeous and frustratingly forgettable. It shows his restless ambition as an artist, but not his ability to make a great, lasting musical statement.

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