The first thing that I noticed while listening to Cousin Dud’s EP, Of Hats and Unicorns, was how wonderfully understated it is. When I pressed play on “Crows,” the first track on the EP, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I prepared myself for the customary amped-up wall of sound that many bands open their album with.
It was a pleasant surprise, then, to be greeted with a more subdued, but equally powerful sound that gradually built to a strong conclusion, instead of being assaulted with a cacophony of instruments and heavy beats that often tend to drown out the actual beauty of the song itself.
Cousin Dud is comprised of three members: Matt Carmichael, Josh Burns and Ben Sams. Together, they manage to emit a sound that somehow combines elements of Bob Dylan’s folk and Oasis’ guitar melodies, but with harmonizing vocals that are uniquely theirs. In some songs, I even hear a slight hint of Irish folk overtones, much like The Chieftains.
In addition to modern band staples like guitar and drums, they utilize a tambourine throughout the EP, which adds an unexpected but extremely enjoyable layer to their music. It’s this kind of melting pot of sounds that I really enjoyed – I can’t pick out any one influence or genre for this group, and I think that makes them more unique and more universally appealing.
What I enjoy the most about Of Hats and Unicorns, though, is the fact that it doesn’t seem to follow any formula or template. Instead, Cousin Dud lets the vocals and instruments dictate where each song goes, and I find it extremely refreshing to hear an album that doesn’t need a lot of flash and sound editing to sound this great.
I suppose the best way to describe it is to say that it reminds me of hearing a band with a really heavy sound do a performance on VH1’s Storytellers: It allows you to appreciate the music in a stripped-down and more basic environment, and often it’s this kind of raw sound that really stands out among much of the over processed music that permeates the radio.
Overall, this EP has sparked my interest, and I’m excited to see what else Cousin Dud is going to come up with. If you enjoy music that doesn’t overwhelm, but rather, music that envelopes you, I highly recommend listening to Of Hats and Unicorns. Keep an eye on these guys… I think they’re going places!
- Cousin Dud, based in Chicago, is: Matt Carmichael, Josh Burns and Ben Sams.
- Their EP, Of Hats and Unicorns, can be downloaded for free on the group’s Bandcamp page.
- Their next show will be at Liquid Blues in Woodstock, Illinois on November 6. Woodstock is only, uh, 60 miles from Chicagoland.
Cousin Dud performing “Hey, Cannibal Lover” at Elbo Room in early 2010