Down Among the Drowned is an extraordinary effort from Mark Carleton, a one-man band out of Dublin, Ireland who took two years of recording this full collection of songs, which he hopes will get a wider audience someday. Not to sound cliché but, I think Tin Drums may be Dublin’s best-kept secret. Honestly, I don’t see how any of these songs shouldn’t get played on the radio or at least shared amongst many friends for years to come. Using Logic software and playing all the instruments himself, Carleton has crafted a deeply personal album that he describes as “scenes of collapse and reconstruction.”
The album’s opener, “Take You Down” reminded me of the ‘60s sound that made a revival in the 1980’s with bands like ABC and Squeeze. This song seems to be about not letting the bastards grind you down, because one can always find the positive within the crappiness that life throws our way. “Get Up, Get Out” also has that ‘60s pop-ish drumbeat that I love, complete with tambourine, guitar effects and handclaps. The album’s title track slows things down in a gorgeously layered way. Hushed drums keep the beat going and it had a mesmerizing effect on me – not sure how I could describe it any other way.
Carleton’s vocal style really matches well with the mood of this song, which by the way, reminded me a little of those guys from The Alan Parsons Project or Roger Waters, although way less menacing and threatening – think Pink Floyd’s The Wall. If any one song should be played on the airwaves, it’s this one.
“Shaking” has that alt-country sound reminiscent of Wilco or when they collaborated with Billy Bragg on Mermaid Avenue. I could picture in my mind the lone driver trying to shake off his demons among the dust rising form the desert highway. “Weakness” also shines with an acoustic, alt-country shuffle.
“Polaris” is another slow number that's reflective and touching. To me, it sounded very much like what McCartney would have written, post-Beatles, post-Wings. Carleton here sings of looking to the North Star for hope and guidance.
Further in on “Waltz #95”, I was pleased to discover that the song actually did have a waltz progression! Not many musicians I know of play waltzes anymore, apart from bluegrass or traditional country songs. The plucking strings in the background were brilliant and there is a hypnotizing guitar solo as well.
Another beautifully executed song is “Breaking Ground.” I’m a sap for adding strings (violins, for example) when it’s appropriate and they were done very well in this number. The drums come in after the two-minute mark and the vocals layered are haunting. “All I Need” ends the album with a nice sing-a-long melody that reminds me of simpler times growing up.
Overall, this is a wonderful collection of songs filled with lots of great melodies and embellishments other than just straight drums, guitar and vocals. It’s cohesive and not one song seemed out of place to me. There is also awe-inspiring photography for the album's cover and you can find that on the Tin Drums Bandcamp site. I’ll be getting this for sure and look forward to Tin Drums’ next effort.
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