I'll admit I find Ryan Gosling hot. The Notebook oozed treacle, but Gosling's a mighty good actor. Trivia: He starred in the The Slaughter Rule, a fabulous film directed by Missoula's own Alex and Andrew Smith. But judging from this debut album, he's far more than eye candy.
Dead Man's Bones doesn't emit the disingenuous whim of some clueless actor. The sound dangles somewhere between the soulful yearning of Sam Cooke and the ghostly reverb of Arcade Fire. Gosling and his collaborator, Zach Shields, boldly feature the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children's Choir out of Los Angeles, and it pays off. When the children all sing, "My body's a zombie for you!" and clap together as if participating in a ghoulish childhood game, the effect proves chillingly delightful. In "Young & Tragic," buzzing electronica and blipping samples of the kids' vocals evoke the sense that they're all spirits from another time.
Some songs highlight the easy current of Gosling's soft and gravelly vocals, and others sport a saucy swagger. Echoing piano chords, weeping sound effects and the children just add more layers. It might be a gimmick, but it doesn't feel like one. I guess I'm in love.