Music: Shoegazer kick

Northfield-reared fuzz-rockers Gospel Gossip sound like a college band of another era.

A lot of things seem off about Gospel Gossip -- especially its timing.

The Northfield quartet's debut CD, "Sing Into My Mouth," arrived in the mail just a few days after I sent over my votes for January's Best New Bands of 2007 showcase at First Avenue. (Hey, Sonia, is it too late to add them to my list?)

But really, the album sounds like it's 15 or 20 years too late. It's the kind of bedroom music listened to in high school by people like me and the guy who's putting out the CD, Guilt Ridden Pop label proprietor Keith Moran. Or at least it's nothing that present-day college kids in Northfield are into: the Jesus & Mary Chain, Galaxie 500, My Bloody Valentine, Lush and other acts with lots of guitar fuzz and shoegazer charm.

The band's 21-year-old frontwoman, Sarah Nienaber, is much more than just a shoegazer. She's an eye-closer. At the Hexagon Bar last Friday night -- a warmup gig for Gospel Gossip's CD-release party Thursday at 7th Street Entry -- the baby-faced singer clenched her lids every time she stepped up to the microphone.

"I've been told I do that, but I don't have any knowledge of it," Nienaber said afterward. "I usually write sitting around in a room by myself. Playing music is a very personal experience for me."

A native of Pequot Lakes, Minn., Nienaber started playing guitar (a purple, square Stratocaster) in seventh grade. After arriving at Carleton College, she formed Gospel Gossip with her classmate and boyfriend Ollie Moltaji, a drummer who grew up in Chicago's North Shore area and claims he once played in a band with the singer from Fall Out Boy (I don't think he'd make that one up).

They found Northfield to actually be a fitting place for their ill-fitting sound.

"There's not really any scene to have to fit into down here, unless you're in a jam band," he said. "So we were free to just play the music however we felt like playing it."

Along with bassist Justin Plank and new-ish keyboardist Deanna Steege (from another Guilt Ridden Pop act, Unicorn Basement), the quartet has become yet another band of shockingly young newcomers playing refreshingly ageless rock music (Mouthful of Bees, First Communion Afterparty).

Still a bit rough around the edges -- a broken guitar string cut short last weekend's Hex set by one song -- Gospel Gossip is at its finest on CD. Moltaji admitted the band got "an enormous amount of help" from Old Blackberry Way studio proprietor Neil Weir, who mixed the album.

Together, they crafted a retro- futuristic, swirling pop ambience in gems like "Wire" and "Shadows Are Bent," on which Nienaber comes off like Tanya Donelly's kid sister. Longer, stormier tracks like the atmospheric CD opener "Home Is Where the Hibah Is" and the eight-minute "Lucky Lemmings" -- their show-stealer at gigs -- sound like demos from Yo La Tengo's "Painful" album.

"Some of these bands, like Galaxie 500, we're just now getting into them after-the-fact because people say we sound like them," Moltaji said.

Better late than never.

Mas Trash

Trailer Trash is mixing things up a little this year with its "Trashy Little X-Mas" shows, an annual tradition at Lee's Liquor Lounge that's sort of like Holidazzle for hard drinkers.

The trad-country vets are playing a few extra gigs in addition to their usual Saturday slots between now and Christmas at Lee's (9 p.m., $10). Tonight's is a fundraiser for local charities at the Zuhrah Shrine Center, 2540 Park Av. S., Mpls. ($20). On Dec. 15, they're doing a kid-friendly matinee show at that mecca of wholesomeness, the Minneapolis Eagles Club (3 p.m., $5). They also added an extra Friday night gig at Lee's on Dec. 21.

For my money (and yes, I do usually pay to get in at Lee's), Trailer Trash's timeless twang goes over better without all the gaudy holiday dressing. But if bawdy Christmas songs and the so-called Jingle Stick are what it takes for people to dig real country in this town, then let it snow.

Tapes roll on

How new were the new songs that Tapes 'N Tapes played at its semi-surprise show last Friday at the Triple Rock? So new that bassist Erik Appelwick hadn't even heard the backup vocals he was supposed to sing in one of them, "Conquest." Said frontman Josh Grier, "Just imagine them."

It was easier to imagine TNT getting around that whole sophomore slump/blogger backlash, which vaguely looms over the second album (spring release date). One good reason to believe the disc will persevere is the producer who helmed the October sessions: Dave Fridmann (Low, Flaming Lips, Sleater-Kinney). The songs -- with titles like "Le Ruse," "Headshock" and "Hang Them All" -- sounded a bit more ambitious and oomph-laden, but not too wildly different from those on the last disc, "The Loon."

Random mix

It's funny to think of Matthew Sandstedt as even being experienced enough to make a drastic musical change, but the former frontman for angsty emo-rock band Aneuretical started performing at age 14. Now 21, he's cleaning the slate with his new digi-pop act I, Colossus, a bedroom-style recording project that will be a full band in time for today's CD release party at 7th Street Entry (5:30 p.m., $6, all ages). The album finds Sandstedt competing with Jeff Hanson as the local guy-who-most-sings-like-a-girl, and it sounds like he's had Thom Yorke's solo album "The Eraser" in heavy rotation. ...

After spending most of the fall on the road supporting its latest, "Ditherer," Fog is playing its last scheduled gig of the year tonight at the Turf Club. If you haven't seen Andrew Broder's ensemble lately, there are some good live clips on YouTube. ... At the Turf on Wednesday, former Selby Tigers co-leader Arzu is playing with her new band, Strut & Shock, also featuring ex-Bleeding Hickeys guitarist Christina Schmitt. ...

No, it's not a mistake: Katie McMahon is indeed celebrating the release of her new CD, "St. Patrick's Day," in the season of St. Nick. "Isn't Christmas the perfect time to start dreaming about springtime?" McMahon joked. The tribute to all things St. Patty, including a song written by the man himself, actually won't get a national release until spring, but the former "Riverdance" singer figured her local audience deserved a preview of it at her annual holiday concert Saturday at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium. ...

In a tribute to another Irish icon, the Belfast Cowboys will play Van Morrison's "Moondance" album in its entirety at First Ave on Dec. 19, the night before Van himself performs at Northrop Auditorium. Considering the $80/$205 price differential, I know which gig I'd choose.

chrisr@startribune.com • 612-673-4658

  • related content

  • Audio: Gospel Gossip - 'Shadows Are Bent'

    Friday December 7, 2007

  • Audio: Gospel Gossip - 'Wire'

    Friday December 7, 2007

  • GOSPEL GOSSIP CD PARTY

    With: Maps of Norway, MC/VL. When: 9 p.m. Thu. Where: 7th Street Entry, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls. Tickets: $6. 18 and older. 612-338-8388. Sound bites: For audio samples, go to startribune.com/music or myspace.com/gospelgossip.
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