DESPITE LIVING ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC, SONGWRITING DUO OF SEAN DUNLOP (DETROIT) AND JAMIE RADFORD (LONDON), AKA THESE CURIOUS THOUGHTS, COLLABORATE BRILLIANTLY—AND ALLOW THEIR FACEBOOK FANS TO EXPERIENCE THEIR PROCESS AND CONTRIBUTE IDEAS IN REAL TIME
Aiming for a clever PR campaign for their previous album Building Mountains from the Ground, songwriting duo Sean Dunlop (music) and Jamie Radford (the quirkiest off the wall lyrics you’ve probably ever heard) came up with a wild origin story that’s about as crazy and intriguing as the idea of The Duke being Batman’s brother (Bruce Wayne)—the driving concept of “John Wayne,” a trippy, ambient-psychedelic track on What Is It, And How Did It Get In There?, their new 16 track studio album.
The two have a very unique international setup as they create a constant flow of what Dunlop calls “indie rock that’s progressive, introspective, poetic, upbeat, catchy, strange and unique…(a vibe that) some people say is a cross between The Beatles and REM.” Radford pens the words from his home base in London and emails them to Dunlop, who lives and makes music in his studio in Detroit. Because the two collaborate so seamlessly despite living on different continents, they thought it was in line with their crafty sense of humor to say they met in 2004 while vacationing separately in Tingo Maria, Peru, where they were introduced to the Ancient Society of Mound Builders. The less glamorous reality is that Dunlop and Radford met on a “musicians wanted”-type website. When Dunlop read one of Radford’s off the wall lyrics, he was hooked. Dunlop, whose college major was history, couldn’t get enough of Radford’s riff on Civil War zombies.
Once the two clicked and became prolific partners, Dunlop had the idea to create an internet based band with contributing members from all over the world. When that didn’t pan out, the two formed a local Detroit band called Shock of the Cold. Their first album, Listen At Your Own Risk, was written and recorded over six months and consisted of over 30 songs. In 2006, Shock played at the Emergenza Music Festival in Detroit and took first place in all three rounds of the competition, beating out many local bands. Shock earned the opportunity to perform in front of 1,600 people at the Majestic Theater where Dunlop won Best Guitarist. In 2007, Radford came to visit the band and participate in one of their shows. The band performed throughout the Midwest and released 3 full length albums. When the band broke up in 2008, Dunlop and Radford decided to forge ahead creating a new band, These Curious Thoughts—and quickly gained a buzz for their multi-faceted albums whose covers featured the colorful artwork of Dunlop’s dad. These Curious Thoughts’ discography includes The World Outside, The Colour of Sound, Lets See What 2moro Brings and—in line with the Peruvian tall tale—Building Mountains from the Ground.
TCT is constantly writing music via their popular Facebook fan page, where they invite their nearly 6,000 international fans to participate in their ongoing evolution as a creative team—posting songs and accompanying videos as soon as they record them. “Our fans are commenting on our songs and becoming more actively involved,” says Dunlop. “We have also asked our fans what we should be writing about and getting amazing feedback.” Other key tracks on the new LP include the edgy, riff driven guitar rocker “Lead Balloon” (the perfect metaphor for a band trying to get off the ground despite numerous obstacles), the emotional love rock opera “Because She Is Love” (written for Radford’s wife), the sexy and transformative lust song “Daughter of Morpheus” starting with hard rock and ending with a melodic piano and guitar based outro, and concluding the LP with the two-part rock analysis of modern life, “Lost in Confusion.”
“The distance actually helps us as collaborators,” says Dunlop. “Jim writes the lyrics at his leisure, and I record and do all the videos at my leisure. This gives us the ability to be fully focused on our creativity when we feel creative. Since we don’t pay for studio time, I have the ability to work on the music and make it right, and not worry about my time ending. I’m also happy to say we are currently performing the music of These Curious Thoughts live with Sean Nasrey on drums and Dan Steffy on bass. It’s great to keep progressing. We don’t live in the past, and the music we’re creating today truly reflects where we are—almost like a soundtrack to our lives.”
TCT is currently working on songs for their next album, “Inventing Dr. Sutherland, and his Traveling Hospital.” The new album should be an amazing collection of songs presented on a concept-type album. Find out what is happening in real time by visiting, www.facebook.com/thesecuriousthoughts
“These Curious thoughts are a band for the 21st century.” – Wildy - WILDY'S WORLD
“Fantastic effort for two dudes collaborating across the Atlantic. Dunlop is a musical genius, and Radford’s lyrics provide the perfect counterpoint. They’re smart, clever and insightful.” – Brian Watson - DPRP.net
“This dynamic duo from two separate continents have simply got it together.” – MF Greens - Vandala Concepts
The songs have varying sounds to keep you listening, some bordering more of a sound that is very reminiscent of 70’s soft-rock. – Trigger Happy Listener
“Definite sounds of late 60s and early 70s influence through the music, quite a bit of this could sit alongside Sgt Peppers without raising an eyebrow.” – Simon Jones - Rumbles & Grumbles
“‘The bass however owes nearly everything to The Beatles and Paul McCartneys’ Hoffner throb.” – Jules - TAPEtoTAPE
“This is a fascinating experiment in transatlantic musical relations hinting at a pair of powerful song writing imaginations.” – Stephen Morris - RockKent.com
“These Curious Thoughts gave me some curious thoughts on how a couple of fellows who were across the pond from each other could actually make a music project blossom into a full blown band. These guys had the raw garage chops and musical intuition to pull it off.” – Cory - Boy Meets Music
JAMIE (JIM) RADFORD - LYRICS & INSPIRATION
SEAN DUNLOP - MUSIC & VOCALS
Sean Nasrey - Drums
Dan Steffy - Bass
RELEASED (AVAILABLE ON ITUNES)
2013 - WHAT IS IT, AND HOW DID IT GET IN THERE? (Viaduct Records)
2012 - MAKING MOUNTAINS FROM THE GROUND (Viaduct Records)
2011 - LETS SEE WHAT 2MORO BRINGS (Viaduct Records)
2010 - THE COLOUR OF SOUND (Viaduct Records)
2009 - THE WORLD OUTSIDE (Viaduct Records)
2013 - INVENTING DR. SUTHERLAND, AND HIS TRAVELING HOSPITAL (Viaduct Records - Expected Release Date 11/12/13)
Because She is Love
Lost in Confusion
Daughter of Morpheus
I've Got God on the Phone
Arctic Heart Attack
"From a pure songwriting standpoint, the collaboration works. Not once did I wonder, “Why the hell did Dunlop go with that musical style for those words?” The music is perfectly suited to Jamie Radford’s unusual and often penetrating lyrics."
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Technology has redefined collaboration in every field of endeavor, including music. Note that techno...Technology has redefined collaboration in every field of endeavor, including music. Note that technology does not automatically improve the ability of our defective species to communicate, collaborate or create. It’s simply the medium, not the message, so fuck you, Marshall McLuhan.
These Curious Thoughts describe their form of long-distance collaboration on their website as follows:
As modern-day pen pals, Sean Dunlop (US) and Jamie Radford (UK) have utilized the Internet to remain in contact and compose their unique songs for nearly a decade. Being separated by the Atlantic Ocean has had little effect on the productivity of this musical partnership. Radford provides lyrics and inspiration via email for Dunlop who then composes the music.
Hmm. Well, productivity is one thing, but what about quality? The Alt Rock Chick diligently applied herself to the study of their most recent album, Building Mountains from the Ground to answer that very question. I think the concept is very cool, but really, it all comes down to the listening experience, so it doesn’t matter much to me whether a band has locked themselves away in a studio or bonds through via email.
From a pure songwriting standpoint, the collaboration works. Not once did I wonder, “Why the hell did Dunlop go with that musical style for those words?” The music is perfectly suited to Jamie Radford’s unusual and often penetrating lyrics.
My first impression of the music itself was that I had time-traveled to the time of the Strawbs and It’s a Beautiful Day: the songs tend towards the melodic and spacey, and are sometimes longer than they need to be. The melodies are often strong and pleasant, but as was the case in the late 1960's, the tracks sometimes drag a bit too long and we “lose the beauty of the melody/until it sounds just like a symphony.” Chuck Berry was a very wise man, indeed.
Another aspect of the sound is that you have to accept going in is that these are home studio recordings. That isn’t bad in itself; most of the crap we hear today is recorded in professional studios and we’ve learned that great recording gear can’t save you if your music sucks. What home recording means is that there are certain limitations and certain traps. The limitations of home studios are most apparent in the vocals, which tend to sound muddy and unclear. As vocals are the most difficult sounds to record under any circumstances, we have to cut Dunlop some slack here. The trap of home recording is that the software and the set-up make it too easy to add sounds to the mix. “That would sound cool,” thinks the performer-engineer-producer, so he or she throws it in. Too many of the songs on Building Mountains from the Ground suffer from excessive clutter when simpler and more focused arrangements would have better supported the musical structure of the song. Some of the arrangements sound as complex as those on Sgt. Pepper; the difference is that George Martin and Geoff Emerick were experienced and talented professionals working with excellent (for the time) equipment in a studio environment that can handle complexity AND they weren’t the musicians. Although Sean Dunlop is a very talented and capable musician, it’s not necessary to show the whole portfolio all at once. The best home recordings I’ve heard tend to be comparatively simple, and the best songs on Building Mountains from the Ground are the simpler arrangements.
One of these better cuts is the opener, “I’ve Got God on the Phone,” which features a dialogue with God during the choruses. I cracked up when God answered the phone, “What the hell do you want?” God seems to find humans a bit tiresome and whiny, a view I often share, particularly at work. Another strong cut is “Nothing Is Supernatural,” featuring some very solid lead guitar work, and dreamy, melodic vocals over a pillowy background. The next song, “The Illusionist,” has the strongest lyrics in the set, and best reflects the strong ambivalence about religion and spirituality that runs through the album:
I sit alone as I control the channels of your mind
I read your clocks and distort all the voices heard outside
I use tricks to influence everything you do
I move through time ‘cos heaven is mine and hell is my world too
I’m illusionist it’s all smoke and mirrors in this life ‘cos we are sinners
There’s no such thing as an honest gent and there’s no time to repent so I won’t
The most powerful set of lyrics can be found in “When God Was a Boy,” the final cut on the album. The narrator is obviously an aging veteran who has outlived his pals and finds himself quite alone in the world:
My bones are weak I hurt all the time
I look outside my window but cannot go outside
I want the sunshine but it rains everyday
All my friends are dead I don’t even know my name
I was old when god was a boy
I fought in many wars but now I need a hand
All alone in my home I find it hard to stand
When there is nothing left with my last breath
I’ll let out a sigh when they pour the dirt over my head
I’ll reach out for the light
The music here is quite reminiscent of mid-period Moody Blues, particularly in the instrumental passages. The contrast with the lyrics creates a sense of irony and bitterness, emphasized by fading out on the repeated fragment, “I was old.”
I would define These Curious Thoughts as a work in progress with a great deal of promise. I noted that they’ve formed a small stateside band to play some of the music live, and I think that’s a very good thing. The Beatles wouldn’t have been as good as they were without those years in Hamburg, and playing with other musicians is always a growth experience. Composers and lyricists have been relatively easy match-ups since the days of Rodgers and Hart, because the two have complementary skills. It’s different when musicians work with other musicians, because there’s more potential for contrast as well as conflict. Still, as Blake wrote, “Opposites are necessary to human existence,” and These Curious Thoughts both prove that wisdom and need to apply that wisdom to move to the next level.
Fantastic effort for two dudes collaborating across the Atlantic. Dunlop is a musical genius, and Radford’s lyrics provide the perfect counterpoint. They’re smart, clever and insightful.
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Sean Dunlop from Detroit and Jim Radford from London met on holiday in Peru seven years ago and got ...Sean Dunlop from Detroit and Jim Radford from London met on holiday in Peru seven years ago and got on so well they became firm friends, with a shared love for, amongst other things, music. They kept in touch via the world wide interweb and a year later, with drummer David Biliti they composed and recorded over thirty original songs and decided to release a double album under the name, Shock Of The Cold.
From 2004 to 2008 the band grew to six members and they toured the Metro-Detroit area extensively and released several albums, as well as winning several local awards. However, in January of 2008, they decided to call it a day. Dunlop and Radford kept in touch, though and continued to write music. Jim does the lyrics whilst Sean composes all the music and sings. The new musical partnership that formed they termed These Curious Thoughts. Biliti was again used on drums and they recorded their debut, The World Outside in 2009.
The Colour Of Sound followed a year later. They decided after that to record a demo of stuff to send out to music industry professional types, which is where we come in, being in receipt of a shiny promo copy of (the unfortunately titled) Let’s See What 2moro Brings.
It’s a little over a half an hour long and I have to say it hits the spot right out of the gate, with the jaunty opener The Good Times, with a maddeningly infectious poppy hook that had 4 year old Izzy dancing like a mad thing. Vocally Dunlop’s laid back, drawly style is highly reminiscent of personal favourite Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser. Which is no bad thing. Elsewhere he’s got a Greg Lake thing going on, and overall it’s a voice perfectly suited to the material.
Dilated Pupils is heavier, rockier and does not sound at all like just one dude is playing everything. As well as singing. There’s a Cardiacs tinge to the track, and an undercurrent of early 70s psychedelia (BOC again, this time Dharma’s fluid guitar playing: hurrah!) which continues into third track Care In The Community that owes quite a lot musically to Lightbulb Sun era Porcupine Tree.
Elsewhere you’ll be put in mind of The Beatles (Beautiful Thing Called Life) and (did I mention it already) Blue Oyster Cult (World Of Pain; There’s Shark In This Fishbowl). And REM (Swimming In Glue). Oh, and Spit has “explicit” lyrics apparently, according to a well known music download store. If the use of the word ‘fucking’ a couple of times offends you, then consider yourself forewarned.
Rainbows is an acoustic number, a tad ELP-ish when the power chord sounds out, that for me is probably the weakest track on the album. It’s not bad, in fact it does grow on you after repeated listens, but I still find it a wee bit well, twee.
And so we end up with the title track, all swirly synth, and jangly guitar. And vocal harmonies. Which is pretty amazing when you consider when there’s only one singer. It sounds like it should have been recorded by any one of a number of stadium filling bands. It’s anthemic.
It’s a fantastic effort for two dudes collaborating across the Atlantic. Dunlop is a musical genius, and Radford’s lyrics provide the perfect counterpoint. They’re smart, clever and insightful.
It’s a perfect length too; never outstaying its welcome, ensuring it’s an album that’ll receive multiple plays. Despite some of the darker lyrical themes it’s a perfect summer record. And it’s why I love reviewing for DPRP. Just occasionally, amidst all the generic, soulless, derivative bilge out there you can still find some great independent music played by highly talented and passionate people. For the joy of it. I’d heartily recommend you support them in their endeavours by buying this.
And if you like this you might be interested to know that they are currently hard at work on their next album, Making Mountains From The Ground.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
These Curious thoughts are a band for the 21st century.
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These Curious thoughts are a band for the 21st century. Lyricist Jamie Radford is based in London (...These Curious thoughts are a band for the 21st century. Lyricist Jamie Radford is based in London (UK) while vocalist/musician Sean Dunlop is based in the Motor City. Radford sends his inspired brand of lyrics and ideas to Dunlop, who then composes songs around them. Their unique songwriting style and their shared history as members of Shock Of The Cold have These Curious Thoughts thinking of bigger and better things for their music. The band has created a demo for 2011 to help them seek out financial, industry and artist support.
These Curious Thoughts 2011 Demo opens with "The Colour Of Sound", an eclectic and angular bit of songwriting that sails the rift between dreamy psychedelia, alt- and classic rock n roll. "I Am A Man" is a mildly catchy tune with a 1960's sound a touch of pop zeal. The song is intriguing if a bit vague. "Talks In Math" combines the lyricism of The Moody Blues with an urgent sensibility that seems ill-fitted but somehow works nonetheless. This is among the most complex arrangements on the demo, and will have the musicians out there following along closely to see what These Curious Thoughts are doing beneath the surface. "Collapse" is rumination on an unknown illness ala Ben Folds' "Narcolepsy". The song is something of an enigma as it blends a smooth, ethereal sense with the rough nature of a garage recording. "Sun Burns Holes" is somewhat bland, but sounds like something REM might have written quickly in-session if they'd come along two decades later. These Curious Thoughts close with "The Truth Is Dead", with Dunlop showing off some of his best guitar work on the album. Things get a bit too repetitive here, but These Curious Thoughts find a nice pop sound in the midst of concentric circles.
These Curious Thoughts aren't such an enigmatic act as they might have been considered even ten years ago, and their 2011 Demo shows promise, but there's still work to be done here. Both members take part in the song craft, but there is an essential disconnect here that cannot be overcome by an internet connection. Radford and Dunlop work well enough together, but lose the magic of truly creating together. Consequently 2011 Demo shows flashes of what These Curious Thoughts might become, but for now they are young band with a lot to prove. Their 2011 Demo answers a few questions, but there's still a lot to be discovered by and about These Curious Thoughts.
This is a fascinating experiment in transatlantic musical relations hinting at a pair of powerful song writing imaginations.
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Transatlantic co-operations between lyricists and musicians are slightly more common than you’d thin...Transatlantic co-operations between lyricists and musicians are slightly more common than you’d think. The most famous example to come to mind is the “Lonely Avenue” album from Nick Hornby (words) and Ben Folds (music); a union which made this fan of “High Fidelity” and Ben Folds Five squeal with delight – until he realised he was surrounded by several concerned looking people.
See also The Ventura Project – a musical union between Matthew Milligan of Wheatus fame in New York and Joey Slater from Gloucester. While maybe not as high profile as Hornby and Folds, The Ventura Project’s err… project goes some way towards proving you don’t even need to be in the same continent to knock out a decent tune (see the latter’s “Heroes” for further details).
And so it is with These Curious Thoughts. Jamie Radford from Tonbridge is the duo’s Hornby to Detroit based Sean Dunlop’s Folds. The band have now released three albums, the latest of which, “Let’s See What 2moro Brings” is filled with observations about the sensitive side of life.
The ten track album opens with a couple songs about optimism and happiness before lurching into songs exploring mental health, questions of self-identity and, to put it bluntly, the apocalyptic end of everything. Less than half way through the album it’s clear that, for all the talk (and singing) of positivity at the beginning, this is something of an exercise in melancholy.
In particular, amid some rather unusual lines (“My heart is empty like a coffee cup/until I’m hit by a truck” and “I always try yet I always fail/I’m hoping I don’t end up in jail”), there are recurring references to the mind: “What’s going on with my mind?” is the desperate plea on “Beautiful Things Called Love”, while “Care in the Community” opens with lines about how “chemicals affect my brain/and tell me how to feel”.
Later, “Rainbows” repeats the riff about chemicals (complete with a line recalling Grange Hill’s anti-drug’s campaign: “So just say no”) before suggesting “Sunshine is a state of mind”. Even the final track, from which the album takes it’s title, is wrapped up in self analysis: “My mind is telling me how I should feel”.
Here you’ll find an album concerning sadness – maybe depression, considering titles so evocative as “Swimming in Glue” and “World of Pain”. Even the duo’s trading name: “These Curious Thoughts” hints at their main concerns.
Musically, the songs sound slightly more cheery than the lyrics could suggest. There’s no Radiohead-ish misery in the melodies here. Sean Dunlop’s vocals float somewhere between those of Michael Stipe, Greg Lake, John Grant, Neil Tennant and David Gedge, with the melodies and accompaniments following suit.
It’s a synth-heavy production with electronic substitutes for violins, brass and choirs standing in for the real deal on epic songs like “Beautiful Thing Called Love” and “My Dilated Pupils”.
The result is a series of sensitive songs about sadness and issues of the mind set against an array of sounds recalling not just R.E.M., The Wedding Present and The Pet Shop Boys, but also The Stranglers and Vangelis.
This is a fascinating experiment in transatlantic musical relations hinting at a pair of powerful song writing imaginations. Who said it was just presidents and prime ministers who could have a special relationship?
These Curious Thoughts - Let's See What 2moro Brings (CD-R, Viaduct, Pop)
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These Curious Thoughts is the duo comprised of Jamie Radford and Sean Dunlop. TCT is an internet ban...These Curious Thoughts is the duo comprised of Jamie Radford and Sean Dunlop. TCT is an internet band...Radford (who lives in the United Kingdom) writes lyrics and e-mails them to Dunlop (based in Detroit, Michigan)...who writes the music and records the tunes. Let's See What 2moro Brings is the third full-length release from these guys...and it's a truly impressive collection of tunes. To our ears, these songs bear strong similarities to artists from the past like Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, The Moody Blues, and even Stackridge at times. These songs are anything but canned modern-day techno-dribble pop. What is most interesting to us about these songs is that they don't really sound like any other artists we've heard over the past few years. And that in itself is, of course, a major achievement. Lots to take in on these ten tracks. Our favorite cuts include "The Good Times," "Care In The Community," "Swimming," and "Rainbows." Neat stuff...rather stylish...
This dynamic duo from two separate continents have simply got it together.
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“This dynamic duo from two separate continents have simply got it together... Showing their darker s...“This dynamic duo from two separate continents have simply got it together... Showing their darker side, and essentially their character, on the song 'World of Pain.' TCT sings of the world crumbling and people fading to dust, which really makes you think!”
"Jamie Radford and Sean Dunlop have been passing compositions across the Atlantic for a while now, and this latest collection is just as inventive, eccentric and loopy as its predecessors. The production is more accomplished (brighter, anyway), and that suits these songs well."
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These Curious Thoughts What Is It, and How Did It Get In Here? (Viaduct) Jamie Radford and Sean Dun...These Curious Thoughts What Is It, and How Did It Get In Here? (Viaduct)
Jamie Radford and Sean Dunlop have been passing compositions across the Atlantic for a while now, and this latest collection is just as inventive, eccentric and loopy as its predecessors. The production is more accomplished (brighter, anyway), and that suits these songs well.
Five smart melodic pop tunes from Royal Oak, Michigan's These Curious Thoughts. This is a true independent release, apparently created from start to finish by the guys in the band. What Is It, And How Did It Get In There? features hummable upbeat pop tunes that should appeal to a wide range of listeners. The band is comprised of Sean Dunlop (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Jim Radford (lyrics, inspiration), Sean Nasrey (drums, backing vocals), and Dan Steffy (bass). Word seems to be spreading fast about these guys, as they've already managed to rack up some appropriately positive reviews. All five tracks here are keepers...our favorites are "Lead Balloon" and "John Wayne." Good solid stuff with excellent vocals..."
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"Five smart melodic pop tunes from Royal Oak, Michigan's These Curious Thoughts. This is a ..."Five smart melodic pop tunes from Royal Oak, Michigan's These Curious Thoughts. This is a true independent release, apparently created from start to finish by the guys in the band. What Is It, And How Did It Get In There? features hummable upbeat pop tunes that should appeal to a wide range of listeners. The band is comprised of Sean Dunlop (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Jim Radford (lyrics, inspiration), Sean Nasrey (drums, backing vocals), and Dan Steffy (bass). Word seems to be spreading fast about these guys, as they've already managed to rack up some appropriately positive reviews. All five tracks here are keepers...our favorites are "Lead Balloon" and "John Wayne." Good solid stuff with excellent vocals..."
My Dilated Pupils
Heads Twisting Tails
Breathe the Day In
This Modern Age
I've Got God on the Phone
Walking between the Raindrops
I am a Man
The Good Times
Lets See What 2moro Brings
Care in the Community
There are no upcoming dates at this time.