Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead and producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura have teamed up as Got A Girl to release I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now, a debut album fit for the soundtrack to a stylish romance filmed in black and white. The pair met on the set of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and bonded over similar music tastes, namely the 60s French pop music that influences the record most heavily. Think bejeweled cigarette holders, high class bars, and midnight trysts in luxurious hotel rooms.
Nakamura is best known for production credits on the first Gorillaz album and has plenty of experience collaborating as part of Handsome Boy Modeling School and Deltron 3030. This collaboration with Winstead is a slight departure from his well-known works but it gives Nakamura the chance to draw from his classical music background. Whereas his work with Del the Funky Homosapien and Prince Paul ventured across the wide world of hip hop, Nakamura’s musical explorations with Winstead trek back to old pop music and sweeping band presence. This is Winstead’s first full-length musical endeavor though she has sung briefly on screen before. Her acting background adds a distinct flair to the album; she sings like she’s playing a character, a distressed ingénue that is slowly learning important life lessons. In an article for The Wrap, Winstead said about singing: “It was sort of like an extension of acting in a lot of ways, especially because it was a specific idea that we were going for…I love it, it’s the kind of music that I love, but if I was to make music on my own without Dan, it might be a totally different thing. Vocally what I do here is kind of a character, as opposed to how I just sing every day. Even lyrically it was this character that we created. It was almost like writing film and having a character but just doing it musically.”
Together, the duo has created something that is elegant, moody, and nostalgic without dwelling too much on the past. Winstead’s sweetly aloof vocals paired with Nakamura’s sweeping and detailed instrumentals come together for a sound that’s cinematic and delightful.
The album opens with chiming bells on “Did We Live Too Fast,” a slinky, sultry song about trying to avoid reality by living through sweet fantasies. Though Winstead’s range does not seem impressive, it’s her vocal control that really garners attention – she can go from breathy to playful to seductive with minimal effort. On the production side, orchestral movements are anchored by Nakamura’s low-key hip hop rhythms. Deep bass beats keep the music from being overly sugary and superficial. On “Things Will Never Be the Same”, hand percussion add to the hollowness of the song with a thundering bass line that anchors Winstead’s whispered singing. “Friday Night” plays on rhythms and instrumentation with a bit more funk, echoing languid weekend disco jams. On “Put Your Head Down,” Winstead’s wistful singing reaches gorgeous heights, paired with a lush orchestral arrangement and a deep-voiced male duet that adds something a bit more sinister on the line Hush my darling, it’s time to dream. The album saunters on elegant heels, gaining momentum in the middle from the upbeat, breezy “There’s A Revolution,” and ending with a certain note of ennui on “Heavenly,” Winstead showing off a soft vibrato paired with wispy light vocals.
I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now – which gets points alone for best album title of the year – is a charming debut effort by this unlikely but perfectly matched duo. It’s out July 22 via Bulk Recordings, and you can stream the video for “Did We Live To Fast” below.