In the late 2000s, Ryan Gosling was at a curious place in his career. After rupturing the hearts of romantics everywhere with a star-making turn in The Notebook, the young actor spent the subsequent years trying on different guises—there was his award-baiting role as a crack-addled teacher in Half Nelson, a failed bid at the mainstream with Fracture, and a foray into indie quirk as a weirdo in love with a doll in Lars And The Real Girl. Then, he kind of disappeared for a few years.
Well, he disappeared from our screens. In light of his Golden Globe win for his performance in Damien Chazelle’s La La Land, Vice felt it was a good time to revisit one of Gosling’s more curious musical detours. In 2009, perhaps as a way to reevaluate his career goals, Gosling joined forces with colleague Zach Shields to form Dead Man’s Bones, a gothic rock band evoking Current 93, Bauhaus, and Vincent Price. As playful as it was eerie, the death-obsessed album pulsed with open chords and ephemeral vocals across tracks like “My Body’s A Zombie For You” (playful), “In The Room Where You Sleep” (eerie), and “Lose Your Soul” (a little of both).
Perhaps the album’s most memorable aspect is the addition of the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir, whose angelic, yet muffled, voices sprinkle a touch of All Hallow’s magic across the album’s dark corners. In videos, the kids dressed in homespun skeleton and witch costumes. They did the same on their 2009 tour, when Gosling and Shields tapped local children’s choirs as backup. At a Chicago show, the duo stepped back as a local girl sang a shivering rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang.”
It’s unlikely the band will ever reform, what with Gosling being one of the most bankable actors on the planet right now, but don’t miss it if they do. Dead Man’s Bones’ only LP is catchy, amusing, and to some degree, helps explain the horror at the center of his lone directorial effort, the divisive Lost River.