An award-winning actor, his best friend and a children's choir in creepy costumes combine to form Dead Man's Bones, a new band that's released its album through record label ANTI- on Oct. 6.
Dead Man's Bones, a collaboration two years in the making, is the brainchild of Ryan Gosling, Zach Shields and the Silverlake Conservatory Children's Choir (a side project of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea).
Since their meeting in 2005, Gosling and Shields had the idea for the project but were unable to start production until their careers permitted. The album, also titled Dead Man's Bones, is an intentionally sparse Old World-sounding lamentation that is contemporarily catchy.
The general premise behind the album is love separated by death, with the partners - one living, one dead - trying to reunite and dealing with the difficulties that this presents.
Sprawling piano pieces like in "Buried in Water" prove Shields' and Gosling's talent in their crossover to music. Gosling's crooner-style voice and experience on guitar make Dead Man's Bones effectively eerie. This fact is surprising, especially considering their great limitations on the project.
Shields and Gosling both had to learn additional instruments and restricted themselves to doing Dead Man's Bones without electric instruments or multiple takes, which could have altered their songs. Thus, everything on the track was played in real time. Additionally, the dynamic of the Children's Choir enriched the sound of the album, even though it's basically stripped to the bare essentials.
"Pa Pa Power," the catchiest song on the album, is also the most emotionally powerful. Focusing on the already dead and their interaction with the living, it presents angry lyrics ("Burn the streets, burn their cars / Broken glass, broken hearts") that are offset by the choir singing, "We won't destroy you, no we will not destroy you," in a bittersweet, if not confusing, song.
"Dead Man's Bones" is one of the most "poppy" and disturbing songs, complete with a wailing lover in the background and lamenting singing saw. The song is based loosely on ragtime piano and gospel. The baroque feeling evoked by so few band members is a wonder to think about while listening.
Shields and Gosling's persistence at simplicity benefited their unpolluted album, creating something much more than expected from two so inexperienced in the business. They also exceed expectations in their refusal to descend into the pitfalls of many who make the transition from the screen to recording studio.
The tour for Dead Man's Bones, which begins Oct. 14, will be coming to select cities and will feature the local children's choirs in each venue, with all opening acts also being local talents. Check out deadmansbones.net for more information.