Among the highlights of any Spinanes show is waiting to hear one of singer-guitarist Rebecca Gates' canny covers—anything from the Pretenders' "Talk of the Town" to TLC's "Creep." So we were thrilled when Ms. Gates agreed to act as guest reviewer for a stack of new releases. We sent her an unlabeled tape, she sent us the following comments from a 3am Philly-to-NYC van ride and a second listening the next morning:
Tammy Wynette with Brian Wilson, "In My Room," Tammy Wynette Remembered (Asylum)
This is one of my favorite Beach Boys songs, but this version is like a backwards skate gone wrong on some '70s version of The Twilight Zone. It's a testament to the song that it works in this style.
Graham Coxon, "A Day Is Far Too Long," The Sky Is Too High (Caroline)
Not my taste. In the van it sounded like some demo-tape young'un who heard that acoustic songs and confessional songwriting are all the rage. Now in the light of day, it might be someone from the early '70s. A tortured genius, perhaps? A boring result nonetheless, except for the outro, which is wicked.
Nicole, "Curiosity," Make It Hot (The Gold Mind/EastWest)
The slow R&B tip. Way too long—it was fast-forwarded through both times. Crippled by the "hiiiiyyyiiiiyyiiiiyyiiiillllyaaaay" style of false emoting, but everything else kicks vocally. Good production. En Vogue? En Vogue wannabes? I'd give it an 80. I'm getting tired of "I'm gonna do ya. Yeah, you're gonna do me," lay-it-all-out sex scenes in songs. Whack. Please bring back the tease and mystery. Or at least Al Green and Curtis Mayfield and Cole Porter.
Chocolate Genius, "Clinic," Black Music (V2)
Tesh it up. It sounds like it's going to be a Brian McKnight song. In the van, we heard the lyric "In this dark stall," and we laughed ("He's a horse!" "He's sitting on the can!"). This production is ripped right off of American Music Club's Mercury, and the vocals are weird: Eitzel-esque, crossed with Dave Matthews.
Esthero "Country Livin' (The World I Know)," Breath from Another (Work)
Nice start . . . it reminds me of Shelleyann Orphan. I like this one best so far. Actually, I'm starting to grow fond of the first song, in retrospect. . . . Music is so contextual. I must protest this process as truly unfair. This song is so smarmy. In fact, all these songs are smarmy. I also protest smarm. Please, let's have less smarm and more self-editing all around. I promise, I include myself.
Elliott Smith, "Baby Britain," XO (DreamWorks)
I've heard this guy before. I think someone should sign him up and put out an album. Maybe use his songs in a movie. I think he might have a future. I've only heard Elliott's new album a couple of times, but this is one of my favorites from it.