In 1978, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour helped introduce the world to Kate Bush and her debut album, The Kick Inside. Since then, Bush has been revered by fans and critics for her influentially unique, bold, eccentric, and eclectic voice, songwriting, and production. So, why am I discussing her here? Because Pepi Ginsberg, lead vocalist for pop group Companion, sounds exactly like her, which makes the group’s eponymous debut alluring, to say the least. As for the music and songwriting on Companion, well, there’s definitely more style than substance. That being said, the record is effectively colorful, bright, honest, and refined. It’s a pleasant—if forgettable and shallow—listen.
Formed last year, the Brooklyn based quintet also includes Anna Thorngate, Tim Lappin, Kirk Schoenherr, and Amy Carrigan. The project was started by Ginsberg (Red, East is East), who, like Bush, crafted early demos in her home. The difference is that Bush worked with piano, while Ginsberg uses guitar and electronic beats. She explains, “I wanted to build beats and have electronic aspects to the music, so I had to figure out how to write them, and blend those ideas with the organic nature of the songs.” “The group defines itself as “artful pop with a twist…lush vocal arrangements and strong rhythmic hooks,” and this is somewhat accurate. While the production is more vibrant and the harmonies are exquisite, the melodies never really amount to much. Companion is like a failed line of poetry— it may sound nice, but it doesn’t really mean anything.
“20th Century Crime” opens the album with pleasant effects and silky female harmonies. The instrumentation is simple but effective, which means that nothing really stands out. In fact, it all sounds a bit too distorted and DIY, which, while successfully giving it a rich 80s pop feel, takes away from its charm. “Out of Control and Wasted on Youth” is more commercial and radio friendly, but there’s still nothing truly appealing about it. To be fair, the way Ginsberg’s melody matches the bursts of instrumental energy in “All That I Want” is admirable, as are the heavenly voices in “No Kid/Beat” and the multilayered sounds in “Blue Movie”; still, like the entire album, it’s more flash than function.
Companion comes with good intentions, a noble attempt at novelty, and a lot of heart; however, none of it really matters if the end result isn’t worthwhile. Ginsberg has a lovely, cool voice (even if it’s quite familiar), and the group undoubtedly has an individualized vision, but it’s all just showy casing used to mask the fact that there isn’t a shred of valuable songwriting. After listening to it, you’ll no doubt erase it from your memory while saying to yourself, “Well, that was kind of neat. Now what?”