The corporeal Phil Spector may rightly be sitting in a California prison cell, pining for his frizzy wig, but his (ahem) specter continues to haunt indie rock with impunity. Latest to invoke his "wall of sound" production style—and the Brill Building's complementary songwriting—is Vancouver, BC's Gigi, a recording project helmed by No Kids' gawky, golden-throated frontman Nick Krgovich and recording engineer Colin Stewart (the Cave Singers, Black Mountain, Destroyer).
Gigi began when Stewart acquired a pair of antique plate reverbs (cumbersome devices from Spector's era that produce their effect by vibrating a sheet of metal). He and Krgovich set out to record a suite of fittingly vintage pop songs, recruiting a chorus of collaborators including Owen Pallett, Mirah, Karl Blau, Bobby Birdman, Rose Melburg of Tiger Trap, and others. And while the sessions happened sporadically over three years, the resulting album hangs together beautifully.
The sound—from that first, ubiquitous Ronettes drumbeat to the final fade-out of brass and strings and finger snaps—is spot-on; Stewart recorded the assembled musicians all together, in live takes, those reverbs absorbing any minor flubs in the execution of Krgovich's ambitious arrangements. And the songs themselves are perfectly sweet little pocket symphonies, full of agile, aerial melodies and impossibly broad, inviting choruses.
"The Marquee," a chilly number with just a slight bossa nova breeziness to its verses, twists and turns unpredictably under Katie Eastburn's appealingly hoarse singing. Like a number of songs here, it somehow makes a virtue of squeezing awkwardly prosey lines into the ensemble's poetic melodies. "One Woman Show" sets Joey Cook's bittersweet reminiscences and gently deflating voice to a piano melody that seems to ascend an endless spiral staircase. "Alone at the Pier" pits Melburg's distinctive coo (twee enough to warrant her leading a band called the Softies) against trembling guitar, a swooning chorus, and that same double-snare beat. "Some Second Best" is a ridiculously fun and catchy coed chorus marked by muted brass swing and cantering percussion. It's a delight to hear Blau and Mirah repurposed here, cast against backdrops respectively twangy/spooky and gracefully swelling, with the latter especially taking to the role of girl-group R&B singer.
There are a couple weak spots, but overall, these songs are studies of the form, the sound is classic, and the craftsmanship is impeccable. Here's to pop bliss without all the unfortunate murder.