Duets happen all the time, all imaginable kinds, but very few of them have the ability to take your breath away. There is no perfect recipe, in every case a different solution might work. The input both contributors bring to the table is never perfectly equal, but it is the details sometimes that can change the result entirely.
Doveman is Thomas Bartlett, born in Vermont, who studied classical music with famous piano teacher, Maria Crucio. He recorded and performed with many different artists, including Anthony & The Johnsons, Grizzly Bear and David Byrne. I would like to take a closer look at two tracks I found on his 2009 release The Conformist. What is so special about The Cat Awoke and The Best Thing? Well, first of all, the backing vocals are donated by one of the most recognizable voices in modern popular music: Matt Berninger of The National. His mellow baritone enriches Doveman’s whisper giving it the missing depth. Secondly, though the record might not be considered outstanding, those two songs are definitely the brightest and strongest parts of it. So take a sit and close your eyes. We are going places. Now.
This song accelerates beautifully: rises up, but not in a pushy, overwhelming way. Guitar intro comes first, then the velvety vocal slides in accompanied by repetitive drum beat in the background. With each and every added layer of sound The Cat Awoke blossoms up. Though it already seems quite perfect, it is the chorus opening up when all combined really blows your mind. The melody gallops ahead suggesting everything is possible, while lyrics tell a different story. No words of wisdom here, just the disappointing reality. The beauty of strings cruelly crushed into the wall of helplessness is what makes this track so unforgettable. Compulsive need to press the repeat button again and again is fully understandable.
While The Cat Awoke tends to make a heart beat a bit faster, The Best Thing calms it down. There is no rush here, the race is pointless. Words slowly drown in a pleasant, warm bath of sound, leaving echoes of passing thoughts behind. Nothing seems to weight enough to disturb the smooth surface. The magic is in the details of the marvelous arrangement of every single note used in this track. It does not finish, just fades out, slowly drifting away with breathtaking grace.
When it comes to duets, the energy obviously flows in both directions, but in this particular situation there is a clear beneficiary of the transaction. It seems like Berninger’s voice is a true gift here, able to nourish Bartlett’s bit monotone ideas. I have listened to Doveman’s discography and – to be fair – it includes plenty of adorable lullabies. The only problem is, many of them lack the extra layer of sound. The whispering thing may be a distinct signature, but is appears to be insufficient for a longer run. Nevertheless, some of Bartlett’s solo songs are truly amazing and definitely worth checking out, especially: Castles, Angel’s Share and Tigers.