Letting Go Of Strings - Gina Noell
Rock Kitten Records, 2003
Originally published December 25, 2003
by Jedd Beaudoin, F5witchita E-Zine
What if David Bowie had decided to say hang it all and become and woman? Chances are he might have sounded something like Gina Noell, whose Letting Go Of Strings proves extraordinarily similar to some of the Thin White Duke's post 1980 material. Gina Noell, is, if nothing else a singer who can balance the world of crooning with the world of rocking, just like ol' Ziggy hisself. It's uncanny. Witness "3-65" (didn't Bowie have a thing for songs with numbers in their titles?), a track that could have easily wound up on, say, Let's Dance or even Tonight. That is, of course, if he were a woman. And if he were Gina Noell. But he's him and she's her and this is, it turns out, a fine album without all that confusing stuff going on.
Noell dresses many of these songs up in wonderfully fashionable clothes, building them like high-security skyscrapers, wrapping them in sexy clothes that tease but never reveal too much. Witness "Perfect," an almost-eerily seductive piece that imagines a positively upbeat Portishead or a clinically depressed blues belter sitting in with ol' David Jones himself.
But comparisons to other artists and appreciations of studio craft aside, the fact is that this record wouldn't work were it not for a series of strong songs, which we get with "Perfect," "Never Forever" and "Addicted" (imagine Annie Lennox starting out today), three that come in a sequence that leaves the listener reeling. Elsewhere, "Going On" proves simply lovely, while "Black Fog" will render the listener simply dumb.
That said, Letting Go Of Strings isn't perfect. There are one or two tracks ("Heat" mostly) that don't quite hit the mark with the same passion as the others mentioned here, but, for the most part, this serves as a fine introduction to this songstress. Now, for our next trick, let's get Noell together with Reeves Gabrels, shall we?
The first solo effort by Gina Noëll is aptly named, as it signals a long-overdue introduction to her unique songwriting, now uncluttered by the ghosts of guitarists past. Like an impassioned tour guide, she whispers in your ear as she glides over a sonic landscape of musical styles and haunting lyrics in a journey of discovery that is the very essence of Gina Noëll. From peaks of optimism to valleys of quiet despair, her ultimately unswerving belief in survival will safely guide the listener to the journey's end. She has successfully captured on disc all the contradictions she portrays on-stage - the contradictions that are Gina Noëll: Charismatic and pensive, confident and doubting, sultry and shy, street-smart yet innocent.
Her previous release "NeoRetroErotiPop" (with former band LoveNancySugar), garnered excellent reviews and national college airplay. But while that album revealed a pop princess who made promises yet ultimately teased, "Letting Go of Strings" reveals a singer/songwriter who has finally found herself. Gina's artistic maturity delivers with a breadth of feeling that will leave the listener both sated and wanting more.
She is amply aided by a bevy of fine musicians who add their own unique playing styles to Gina's lyrics and music. It's a tribute to the strong Portland, Oregon music community that so many good friends willingly contributed to this release, and shared a passion for Gina's music. Lara Michell (Carmina Piranha), James Beaton (Storm & the Balls, Jeff Trott Band, Everclear, Nicole Campbell Band), Joe Davis (Pinehurst Kids), and Ned Wahl (ChemLab) to name but a few.
From hook-laden guitar rock to pulsating electronica grooves, or sultry trip-hop to a bossa nova reminiscent of 60's movie soundtracks, from rootsy acoustic guitar pop to sweet cello solos and warbling Mellotrons, Gina Noëll artfully distills and then blends a musical cocktail to constantly tingle your taste buds. "Letting Go of Strings" is an album that will not wear out its welcome: It will absorb you again and again with a unique mixture of quirky, intriguing, sensual lyrics and genre-bending styles.
In San Francisco they might call this stuff "Rocktronica", if you have to give us a label call it "Guitronica", the blending of conventional guitar pop/rock with electronic percussion, samples and loops. Better yet, just for fun, email us and tell us who you think we sound like!
While you're on Gina's website keep an eye open for some photo's that we will be adding in the very near future. we took them during the main photo shoot for Gina's CD artwork. They really get across the CD title concept of "Letting Go of Strings".
This just in, a reprint of an interview with Gina by Mark Woodlief, a contributing writer for the Oregonian newspaper, A&E Friday, 31st October 2003.
notes from the Northwest music scene
By MARK WOODLIEF
GINA NOELL LETS GO, COOKS UP SOLO ALBUM -- As she neared completion of her debut solo CD, "Letting Go of Strings," singer Gina Noell hit on a unique idea that gives more intimate meaning to the expression "will work for food."
Throughout much of the past year, Noell and her producer/husband, Michael Cubbon, assembled many of Portland's most talented musicians to play on the CD. Some of these players -- notably including Jeff Trott Band and Everclear keyboardist James Beaton, Carmina Piranha/Carmina Luna's Lara Michell, Pinehurst Kid Joe Davis and Keith Schreiner of Dahlia -- had literally sung, or rather played, for their supper.
It seems that in addition to being a solid songwriter and flirtatious frontwoman, Noell, the former vocalist of LoveNancySugar, also is an ace cook. Last summer, anticipating the cost of funding the manufacturing and promotion of her album, Noell and Cubbon hosted a series of three-course fund-raising dinners at their home. Friends and supporters enjoyed paella, herbed halibut, shepherd's pie and lamb chops with baby potatoes and asparagus.
"It finally hit me that so many people who had worked on the album did work for dinner," Noell says. "And (they) liked it. It seemed like something I could do."
Something she could do, indeed. Just like releasing a solo effort instead of "hiding," as Noell puts it, "behind a band name." During several former lineups of LoveNancySugar she split her time and energy between writing songs, being frontwoman and trying to strike compromises among band members. No longer.
"This is the first concept that I've done where I really am able to call the shots. I'm finally hearing my songs the way I want to hear them."
The 13-song "Letting Go of Strings" provides Noell room to explore a variety of styles from guitar-fueled modern rock ("3-65") to trip-hop ("Perfect") to electronica ("Addicted") to '80s-style new wave ("Heat"). There's even a bossa nova-influenced tune, "No One's Left Standing." The common thread to the diverse recording is Noell's dusky coo.
While it's easy to hear influences in Noell's singing -- Kate Bush, Debbie Harry, Annie Lennox, even a few male vocalists -- she succeeds in establishing her own identity on "Letting Go of Strings." That identity is a sassy mixture of independent woman, sweet romantic and seductress. The final track, "(Look) What I Can Do," is an assertive, proud declaration of accomplishment.
"I am such a girly girl," Noell says. "I think we (women) have so much more power than we give ourselves credit for, and we don't have to find that power by trying to be masculine."
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