New Bums is a duo composed of Skygreen Leopards' Donovan Quinn and Ben Chasny, probably best known for his work in Six Organs of Admittance. For their full-length debut, Voices in a Rented Room, the two serve up an album's worth of haunting acoustic numbers. Quinn and Chasny manage to sidestep any of the folk comparisons that seem to arise in relation to arrangements like theirs — mostly because they seem at odds with each other in terms of tone and style.
It's not that the two lack for chemistry, but the songs on the album mostly feel like works in progress, like the two are still sizing each other up, which makes for a dynamism usually lacking when two acoustic guitars are in such close proximity. On the whole, Quinn and Chasny find discord and harmony in equal measure. Somber, acid lyrics generally drive the vehicle, but frequently take a back seat to bright, inspired fretwork.
Even the pitch-black numbers manage to charm, offering such a negative perspective as to border on the comical. "She looks at me like a thief / like she knows all my crimes / and can bust me any time," they harmonize on "Your Girlfriend Might Be a Cop."
With songs that are fleshed out to various degrees, but always poignant, New Bums offers everything from deathly stompers ("Welcome to the Navy") to fully formed ballads ("Town on the Water"). Steeped in cynicism as it may be, Voices in a Rented Room is about perseverance, not surrender. When their guitars do the talking for them, Quinn and Chasny make that very clear.