Piney Gir – You Are Here

The choice of a title for a record can materially influence how you expect it to sound. In the case of the new LP from Piney Gir, the working title was It’s Been A Shit Year For Everyone. Had she stuck with that, the ten pop songs here would have sounded brooding and sullen, sloping their way through the album with a world-weary miserablism and mopey outlook. Fortunately, Piney pivoted and opted for the much more ambiguous You Are Here, its cover finding her draped in white, against a white background, holding a white guitar: it seems to say, ‘Yep, you’re here, it ain’t great but you can at least make something good out of it – if you want to.’

The album was trailed by the fine single ‘Great Pretender’, carrying a dreamy, vaguely surreal popness thanks to its inspiration coming from a weird party at Rick Rubin’s Hollywood pad. A similarly wonky obliqueness can be heard across You Are Here, it’s songs being easy on the ear but hard on the mind if you listen closely enough. Here we find Piney playing with styles ranging from the gentle balladry of ‘Variety Show’ (a duet with Sweet Baboo) to the spiky tenderness of ‘Puppy Love’, via the Fifties slow motion rock ‘n’ roll embrace of the standout ‘Peanut Butter Malt Shop Heartthrob’ – replete with finger clicks and saxophone beamed in from Vince Fontaine’s National Bandstand in Grease – and concluding with the impassioned, gauzy exotica of final track ‘Evensong’.

Piney’s voice has always had the capacity to have a cutesy sweetness, a bubblegum charm, which is why it’s hard to find her chewing over themes of missing out and being unlucky in love on the buzzing ‘Careaway’ or the careworn, embittered ‘Admiral Fleets’ that opens the record. The alien, unresolved tonalities of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy and the languid, louche detachment of vintage Roxy Music provide the textural fabric of these pieces, lacing many of the songs here with an uncertainty that makes them less pop than they first seem.

The album’s most towering moment arrives in the ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’. Here we find Piney taking a wistful, regretful look back through a tragic love story, its diaristic lyrics offering an insight into a relationship that suggests its individuals were doomed from the very start, the memory of Paris the only bright spot in an ill-suited pairing full of opposite viewpoints and never quite arriving at the same point on a map.

We have become accustomed to Piney Gir’s restless stylistic eclecticism, and You Are Here clings to that ‘anything goes’ ethos faithfully. Amid the album’s rich, broadminded musical accompaniment it is Piney’s plaintive, delicate, fragile voice that steals the show, drawing you in time after time and once again highlighting her idiosyncratic, honed form of evocative and often heart-wrenching storytelling.

You Are Here by Piney Gir is released November 1 2019 by STRS Records

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Documentary Evidence

Piney Gir – The Great Pretend (STRS single, 2018)

Prefacing her seventh album, You Are Here, Piney Gir’s new single finds the Kansas-born, London-residing Angela Penhaligon embracing warm, fuzzy analogue synths and angular pop that nods to the likes of Roxy Music, all bleached into haziness by Malibu evening sunshine.

‘The Great Pretend’ was inspired by one of those nights you look back on and wonder whether it really happened. In this instance, it was a trip to the home of author Neil Strauss, an evening filled with celebrities, connections and conversation that at the time felt utterly normal but which took on a strange otherness after; sufficiently so to give ‘The Great Pretend’ – with its languid bassline, wayward guitars, layers of analogue loveliness and rousing (yet muted) chorus – a strange feeling of opaqueness, like the true meaning behind the words is elusive, personal and known only to its creator.

The single is rounded out by two B-sides, the jangly and uplifting, slightly glam ‘Spirited Away’ and the cover of The Paragons’ reggae track ‘Happy Go Lucky Girl’. The latter is delivered in a style that Piney says is a nod to Julee Cruise and Twin Peaks, but which to me sounds like a serene bit of unused Latin-infused background music from Dirty Dancing (this is meant as a compliment). But hey, Piney used to live in the place where Twin Peaks was filmed, North Bend, WA so she definitely knows the weird atmosphere of that place better than most.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Electronic Sound 35

Issue 35 of Electronic Sound has been out for a while, and this month features a major in-depth look at the work of much-missed German producer Conny Plank.

This issue features the last part of my feature on Alison Moyet, here focussing in on her influences. Such pieces are often really illuminating, particularly – as here – were they cover non-musical influences, and it was no different on this occasion. The interview was conducted in a bar in Chelsea back in May, and is the companion piece to a feature about Moyet’s latest album, Other.

My other major feature for this month was about the weird world of the Welcome To Night Vale podcast, something’s that been running for years but which totally passed me by. My interview with Jeffrey Cranor, co-author of the podcast, was definitely one of the most fun things I’ve done this year.

On the reviews front, I covered Gregg Kowalsky‘s ambient delight L’Orange, L’Orange, the very Night Vale-friendly strangeness of Snapped Ankles‘s Come Play The Trees, a reissue of an overlooked album by Twins Natalia, an absolutely fantastic electronic jazz crossover in the form of Brzzvll‘s Waiho, a more subtle jazz-with-synths hybrid in the form of Chet Doxas‘s Rich In Symbols, the fantastically raw No Luscious Life by Glasgow’s Golden Teacher, and a career-spanning piece on Simian Mobile Disco‘s ADSR reissue and Anthology collection.

My final contribution this month was among the most personally rewarding. For the magazine’s Buried Treasure section, I wrote a piece on Vic Twenty‘s Electrostalinist, an album which sadly seemed to pass everyone by when it was released in 2005. Vic Twenty was originally a duo of Adrian Morris and Angela Penhaligon (Piney Gir), they supported Erasure in 2003, and Mute‘s Daniel Miller set up a new independent label called Credible Sexy Units just to release one solitary single by the duo. Piney left to follow a successful solo career and Morris carried on alone. I drafted a review of the album for Documentary Evidence when it was released but never finished it, much to my regret, and so it was a pleasure to finally give Electrostalinist the coverage it deserved.

Electronic Sound can be purchaed at www.electronicsound.co.uk.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound