All of The Unknown, the third album from California’s The Drowning Men, promises a fresh, fun sound that would mix well at anything from an indie-rock gig, to a folk fest, to a punk cabaret.
First two tracks “Lost In A Lullaby” and “The Waltz” have a more indie feel, almost like something Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull would create, but a lot more clean cut, not as gritty and grimy. The upbeat instrumentals and story-like imagery of the lyrics counter the darker meanings of false hope and pleas for redemption. The ringing of the piano leaves a hollow echoing that gives an empty feeling finally satisfied by the addition of instruments much like the horns in the latter track.
“Bored In A Belly” starts off like you’re in a mad house at a travelling circus, incorporating the dizzying accordion playing and chiming bells that make up nightmares. Lead singer Nato Bardeen’s vocals make things more solemn but maintain the feeling of entrapment through his lyrics, “This is not my home” repeated over a whirring rhythm.
“Smile” is a truly feel good track, inviting relaxation by forgetting the stresses of everyday life and wanting to disappear with a piano. What else would you expect from a song titled “Smile?” The happiness continues with the harmonies in “A Fool’s Campaign” which make you want to go with him on his journey through acoustics and warm tones.
Much like the previous idea of covering up dark, depressing lyrics “I Am The Beggar Man” does just that with happy melodies, a bright chorus, and joyous drums. The wicked and cruel world is but a lost thought among the sea of swirling guitar.
A nice little break, the entirely instrumental “Life In The Willow Tree” swoons and soothes like the soundtrack of a nature documentary before the album picks back up into a tinkling piano triad and passionate vocals in “A Long, Long Walk.” Dare I say it has a Coldplay-like feel, but without the cheesiness, and with sincerity and more complex and harmonizing instrumentals, maybe even go as far as a little theatrical?
“Fix Me Love” has a moving, early-70s-pre-disco vibe blended with plucky strings and a looping bass line. Bardeen croons, “fix me love or kiss me careless,” in true hopeless romantic spirit.
The thunderous intro to “Questioning (A Big Ole Sham)” is slightly grandiose in manner, and holds a little bit of Celtic folk influence underneath rock riffs, most likely what helped them tour with Flogging Molly.
Retreating back to the lone piano cabaret and echoing vocals, closing track “A Better Place” demonstrates that stand alone simple keys is sometimes just enough. Eerie lyrics of not wanting to be cured add to the haunting, minimal piano. Even more morbidly intriguing is the drop off, “I take one last breath” before the album falls to silence.
This eeriness alternated with folk and indie rock allows for the ability to change sound and avoid being categorized into a genre, which is probably one of the best things an emerging band can do. Through All of The Unknown, The Drowning Men have such a mastery of their varying sound that signifies their confidence of uniqueness. And maybe the title was right, from track to track, it’s unknown which of their sounds you’re going to get.