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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, September 30, 2023
New Bums—Voices In A Rented Room

Record Routine: New Bums fill debut album with beautiful but spare embellishments

A pair of brothers-in-folkery fill a rented room with the voices of two guitars and harmonized melancholy. They trade off everything from blues fills and descending scales to tales of “Pigeon Town” and the least hated of the least favorite sons, doing so with tiny embellishments found beyond the walls of that rented room. This is Voices in a Rented Room, the debut album by Americana troubadours Donovan Quinn and Ben Chasny under their new project New Bums.

The album starts slow. “Black Bough” is an easy and steady song with simple chord progression and acoustic fills chugging it along. It grows over a drumbeat with the duo chanting the song’s title while a faint accordion fills out the rest of the sound. Not quite a rented-room production, it’s a little dry before it evolves into its gorgeous finale. “Pigeon Town,” the second track, doesn’t really build on this finale. Instead, it clunks its way through an easy-going but unexciting song about “Pigeon Town,” where “you only get fucked.” Tiny electric guitar touches lift it towards the end, but deliver too little to make it stand out.

When “The Killers and Me” and its haunting campfire tone are introduced, the album finally lifts itself up. An acoustic guitar solo drives a spike through the middle of the song, giving it a fiery power before the following track, the acoustic headbanger “Your Bullshit,” kicks into a thundering blues riff and guitar slides. “It’s the Way,” one of the most emotionally moving songs on the album, is reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, while an industrial folk beat and Dylan-esque attitude hammer along “Welcome to the Navy.” Spanish guitar and sitar-effects finish the album with hatred for a son (“Mother’s Favorite Hated Son”) and love for a daughter (“Cool Daughter”).

New Bums didn’t exactly limit themselves to the rented room on Voices, as they add everything from accordions to industrial drums to their brand of folk. Yet, they maintain an honest storytelling that harkens back to the most basic of folk albums and bare-bone productions. It can be slow at times, but there’s a beauty behind the conversation Quinn and Chasny have with their rented room. These Voices in a Rented Room may be quiet at times, but they sing when they get the chance.

Rating: B

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