By: Steve Hochman
Ah, can’t you just see the Aston Martin zooming along the Monaco coast? A gorgeous, if doomed, bombshell sits in the passenger seat and behind the wheel, who else? Bond, James Bond. Certainly that’s a scene Got A Girl had in mind when creating its debut album -- and one certain to come to mind when you hear the opening song, “Did We Live Too Fast.”
It’s a thread through the music. There is a lot of camp nostalgia here. The cover photo shows Got A Girl -- Dan Nakamura and Mary Elizabeth Winstead -- as members of the champagne jet set. And the unwieldy album title plays it with a wink: "I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now."
But with that wink there’s a heavy sigh. Right at the top, “Did We Live Too Fast” tempers the bon vivant-isms with its existential question and an underlying air of loneliness, of doubts, of weary wondering. And with the very next song there’s no pretense, no mask. As Winstead sings “I’ll Never Hold You Back,” the champagne has lost its bubbles and she makes her pledge to her lover, more of resigned desperation than fresh desire.
As much as the ultra-cool sounds Nakamura has crafted together might grab the ears, it’s the haunted introspection that keeps them engaged. There’s surprising substance beneath the candy shell, the unexpected depth of what could easily be dismissed as a novelty side project teaming a noted San Francisco producer with a moonlighting Hollywood actress. You could call them a post-millennial Sonny and Cher, if She & Him didn’t already have that covered.
Nakamura, aka Dan the Automator, has a track record of inventive, colorful sounds, most prominently producing supergroup Gorillaz, as well as his own collaborative projects such as Handsome Boy Modeling School. Winstead is a rising name in off-center cinema, notably appearing in Quentin Tarantino’s "Death Proof" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."
They met when Nakamura was doing the Pilgrim soundtrack. Hey, it would be fine if this were just some sonic dress-up fun. And don’t get the wrong idea. This is fun. When Winstead sings “There’s a Revolution,” Nakamura makes sure that it’s a revolution you can dance to.
In addition to the John Barry Bond soundtracks, this is also heavily rooted in ‘60s French pop. Heck, the notes on the album’s back cover are even en Français. Still, it’s how Winstead puts some English on the phrases that is noteworthy. “Put Your Head Down” offers straight, lush intimacy, a respite from the doubt, or so it seems. Before she sings “we’ll be together,” there’s an uncertain, equivocating “maybe.”
For all the substance, this is naturally reminiscent of the Lounge Music revival of 15 or so years ago, which, rightfully, burned out quickly. The existential question for Got A Girl, then, is where to go from here. Very curious to see how Got A Girl could evolve as these two develop their, uh, bond.