Today’s music review focuses on San Francisco’s electro noire pop duo no:carrier who set out to explore the darker side of California in their new EP, Ghosts of the West Coast, by covering Golden Coast-themed songs in a melodic setting very different from their original one. Each track is sung by a different guest vocalist from the area—Kalib DuArte, Melissa Harding, and Lauralee Brown, respectively—accompanied by no:carrier’s own singer Cynthia Wechselberger.
A little bit like when Mandy Moore covered Rihanna’s “Umbrella” or when Alanis Morissette covered the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps”, the same lyrics set in a more somber melodic setting bring out the emotions therein more effectively than the more poppy and energetic original versions did.
The original recording of each of the first three tracks have a certain melancholic side underlying their themes. Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” is about a man looking for his lost love at the end of summer; Belinda Carlisle’s “California” is about the perils of fame and show business; and Tony Carey’s “Room with a View” is about broken dreams and lost fortunes.
But each song, to a certain extent, understates this bleak side with elements such as an up-tempo beat, driving drums, a higher vocal range, or the use of instruments such as the harmonica. no:carrier drives their darker sides home by using a simple, lonely piano opening; airy, almost eerie echoes; slower tempos; throbbing beats; almost husky crooning; and a lower singing range.
The fourth offering might be a traditional Irish folk song about lost love but, except for a familiar percussion line, sounds nothing like one. “She Moved Through The Fair” features an almost shimmering electronic beat during its first half that serves well to enhance the delicate, haunting female vocals.
The effort by no:carrier to increase the awareness of listeners to what they are actually hearing is laudable. Ghosts of the West Coast will no doubt capture much attention and provoke a lot of thinking about the effect of its music on listeners. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information is available on their Facebook page and official website.