BY MIKE SHANLEY
New Bums reside in a world where acoustic guitars pluck out gentle melodies to accompany whispery vocals. The voices sound sweet but the words don’t necessarily follow suit. They tell tales of hanging with killers, of a girlfriend who might work for the Fuzz, or offer an introduction to a branch of the armed forces, which might be metaphorical rather than literal. Since these songs are all delivered in fairly sweet, high voices with occasional harmonies, it’s hard not be charmed by them.
Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire) and Donovan Quinn (Skygreen Leopards) make up New Burns. Aside from the occasional metronomic drum beat, some keyboard flourishes or the high lonesome touch of an electric slide, Voices In a Rented Room consists largely of the two of them and their acoustic strings. Nothing strays beyond the mid-tempo department, and some songs don’t even qualify for that descriptor. The album’s strength comes from the way it’s shaped: each song is distinct from the previous one. A “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” riff is followed by some finger picking, or the main guitar has an expansive sound that fills the speakers. The album might sound spare, but it’s always moving.
On top of that, Chasny and Quinn evoke the sounds of the album title, specifically the voices heard between, roughly, 2 a.m. and check out time. The action occurs in the early part of those hours. Then as the sun comes, amid empty bottles and cigarette butts and the hope that the head won’t hurt too much, the words and chords get committed to paper. Maybe they were trying to evoke Leonard Cohen’s Songs From a Room but they came up with something sweeter (albeit noir-ish) in the process.
DOWNLOAD: “Your Bullshit,” “The Killers and Me.”