Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Weird elements combine for fresh sounding folk pop by Dead Man’s Bones

Today I want to recommend another library find. I’ll warn you right up front, this is a weird one. The band, Dead Man’s Bones, is comprised primarily of Ryan Gosling (yes, the Canadian actor from The Notebook, The Believer, and Half Nelson) and his friend, Zach Shields. Their self-titled release came out in October of 2009. I’m guessing the October release was timed to coincide with Halloween because the entire album is spooky-themed. Here’s the interesting part. The whole thing is also a collaboration with the Silverlake Conservatory Of Music Children’s Choir. So a Canadian actor and his buddy team up with a children’s choir to put out a Halloween album. You have to think, “This one is not landing in the middle of the bell curve. It’s gonna be really good, or terribly bad. Probably the latter. Either way, I have to hear it.”

Beating the 90% chance that it would suck.

Turns out, it far exceeded my expectations and is pretty damn good. I was very doubtful about the use of the children’s choir, but it works with the simple melodies and dark themes. The sound is not complex, but studio effects have been added throughout to liven it up. The session was not about perfection. Rather, it was about creating atmosphere, and very live-sounding, organic songs. All the rough edges were left in, which was absolutely the right call. It makes the album engaging and even charming.

The whole thing is worth picking up just so you can spin it next Halloween, but if you’re looking for tracks that you’ll like all year round, I recommend these three in particular.

  • Pa Pa Power – This track is a perfect marriage of the simple keyboard based instrumentation, Gosling’s smoky alto, and the voices of children. I all but guarantee that if you follow this link and check out this track you will be intrigued.
  • Young & Tragic – The kids choir is featured more in this song as they sing, “I wish that we were magic so we wouldn’t be so young and tragic.” Between choruses, the song sports some synthesizer, odd noises, and simple percussion all wrapped around an uplifting chord progression.
  • Paper Ships – I don’t think there’s a ukulele in this, but it sounds vaguely Hawiian until the whole choir kicks in and it starts sounding more like Polyphonic Spree. It’s a light little song with a pretty melody and hummable backing vocals.

In addition to these three, you may want to check out ‘My Body’s a Zombie for You.’ I went back and forth on this song. I ultimately decided it was a little too weird for me and didn’t rip it to my iPod, but now that I hear it again, I’m not sure anymore. It’s really catchy. You may also dig the title track, ‘Dead Man’s Bones.’

So there you go. I don’t know if this is the kind of thing they can repeat or if this concept is spent and Gosling and Shields will move on. This was such a surprise to me. Usually, actors singing are on a par with singers acting, in the same way restaurant art is on a par with museum food. Then you throw in the goofy concept and the oddball personnel. This release has the feel of lightning in a bottle. Still, they surprised the hell out of me once. I know I’ll be on the lookout for more of their work.


April 6, 2010 - Posted by | Alt Country, Folk, Popular

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