Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Frolic with Mermaid Skeletons

March 29, 2009

On Mermaid Skeleton’s myspace, the group claims that the band began when frontman Joshua Hryciak was inspired by the movie “Bambi.” And while I am not sure if they are completely serious about this or not, it actually makes sense after listening to their EP Darlings. The songs on this EP make me think of wood nymphs and magical forests, so it’s not hard to imagine a talking young fawn, too.

But what does it sound like? Mermaid Skeletons is a large group, with nine current members, but their music is acoustic, making the mini-folk-orchestra sound light and airy. There are percussive elements, but no drums. You won’t notice this, however, when you listen casually. (“The rhythm’s in the guitar,” as John Lennon used to say before The Beatles had a drummer.) Think Belle & Sebastian-styled melodies with a hint of Sufjan Stevens quirkiness topped off with a very talented lead vocalist. Hryciak’s voice is quite high, but it never sounds strained or forced, and his vocals (justifiably) steal the spotlight throughout Darlings. The band’s press release uses the word “sugary,” and I think this is accurate, but not in a sticky-sweet-how-cute kind of way – it’s more like icing on a cake.

The opener “Happy Bell” is just what it sounds like – both happy and bell-like, with the inclusion of the glockenspiel. It’s my favorite on the EP because of the gorgeous and catchy vocal lines, perfectly executed harmonies, and its range of dynamics to build tension. And ya gotta love glockenspiel. Really though, all of the songs on this EP have their strengths, and since it clocks in at a mere twenty minutes, you should definitely give all of Darlings a chance. All six songs (including a short accordion interlude) are on Mermaid Skeleton’s myspace. I highly recommend this darling EP, and I hope that the band will release a full-length.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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