CD Reviews

This week we review the latest albums from Dead Man's Bones, Athlete, Tommy and the Fallen Horses and compilations celebrating the music of Chris Knox and the Gospel tradition.

>Dead Man's Bones. Dead Man's Bones. Anti- Records.

Four stars (out of five)

This side project for A-list actor Ryan Gosling and friend Zach Shields is a deliciously creepy celebration of the pair's youthful fascination with zombies, ghouls and graveyards.

First intending to develop the theme for a stage show, they eventually settled on employing a DIY ethic to record an album only, bringing in Los Angeles chorus the Silverlake Conservatory Children's Choir to add an air of corrupted innocence to proceedings.

From cinematic dirge to doo-wop for the damned, there are a handful of tracks here that border on brilliance, making this more than just a Halloween novelty.

Single download: Pa Pa Power

For those who like: Beirut, Chad Van Gaalen

- Jeff Harford

>Athlete. Black Swan. Fiction/Polydor.

Athlete formed in 2000 amid the British sound made popular by groups such as Coldplay.

Now, as then, the band seems to be taking the flavour of the month as its first point of reference.

On Black Swan, the group tempers its higher-than-the sky Yellow-style anthems with the generous use of synthesizers (see Muse) and the kind of '80s revival production that is prominent as we approach the second decade of the 21st century.

Verse after verse, chorus after chorus, this album exhausts the listener with its predictability and formulaic arrangement.

Each song is all radio-friendly, all the time.

Single download: Don't hold your breath

For those who like: Coldplay from X and Y onward, Doves, U2

- Thom Benny

>Various artists. Stroke: songs for Chris Knox. Independent.

Having inspired a long list of musicians since his first forays into punk in the 1970s, Chris Knox is now the subject of tribute album, though one with a difference: the money being made here is to go into his rehabilitation from a stroke he suffered in June.

Comprising 34 cover versions, the double album features artists both well-known and obscure.

Approaches differ widely: the stripped-back, languid slide guitar of David Kilgour on Nothing's Going To Happen bumps up against The Mint Chicks' delicate yet chaotic rendition of Crush, while the plaintive voice of Will Oldham deepens the honesty/frailty of My Only Friend.

Single download: Inside Story (Don McGlashan)

For those who like: um, Chris Knox

- Shane Gilchrist

>Tommy and the Fallen Horses. Isolation is the New Party. Rythymethod.

It might appear to be a tasteful piece of alt-country, but don't be fooled.

Isolation Is The New Party is the sound of a bar band that makes exactly the type of music people require in a bar.

By nature it forms a soundtrack rather than a stand-alone aesthetic entity, and in consequence every song sounds like the previous one.

The lyrics are run-of-the-mill sensitive tough guy material.

But that is to be expected.

This album is effective in the context of its likely audience, and competently produced.

Single download: Babe I'm just scared

For those who like: Nickelback minus the electric guitars

- Thom Benny

>Oh Happy Day. Various. EMI/Vector.

"You don't just hear gospel music, you feel it."

So runs the catchphrase on the back of this "all-star music celebration", a disappointing compilation of covers done by genre stalwarts with big-name artists such as Jon Bon Jovi and Joss Stone.

A big '80s-style production robs the album of any subtlety, leaving little for listeners to "feel" as choirs get lost in an electric wash of sound, while the lead vocals are (mostly) overwrought.

Though Al Green, Patty Griffin and Mavis Staples lend their not inconsiderable talents to the project, there's not much that's happy about this day.

Single download: Waiting For My Child to Come Home

For those who like: Michael McDonald, Aaron Neville, gospel-lite

- Paul Mooney

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