Bury the Cynics is a story of two voices, one of words and one of music. The former stands stolid in its melancholy submission to the world and the troubles it brings, the trouble it is. The latter stands in position beyond definition, somewhere between the words and the world, and travels the widely varied musical terrain separating the two. The voices’ relationship is far from antagonistic, but the music tends to lead submissive vocal work to strange new soundscapes it wouldn’t normally find itself. Where these vocals might stick out sore enough to practically poke the listener’s ear drum, the glum words, sung as if spoken, somehow find a niche in the new musical backdrop, no matter how quick the change from old. The words, as expected from their wearied sound, make little accommodation for world of music behind them. They continue in their doleful steps, and fit in the new genre without irony. The end result is what is known as expression.
“Wraith” is a fairly good example for all that stuff up there. The first track on the album, it starts as the title might suggest, spindly fingers pluck light guitar strings with an eerie reverb effect emanating from an electric. After that, the electric guitar takes a trip to the beach, strumming an island sound that molds around the vocals without a single strain. Even later in the song, the acoustic work ditches its eerie track to play along with something almost cheery, and though the vocals seem to not have changed from the track’s beginnings as a ghostly confession, it seems though they must have. “The Department of Forseeable Outcomes” follows a similar pattern, starting somewhat more contented than “Wraith,” carefree sort of, but with a despondence that is by this time familiar to the listener. A piano then climbs the scales slowly, and without effort, the voice of words seems itself triumphant. The music though, soon falls from grace. It tumbles, and the words, even at the height of its lament, “I have seen the days of my quiet life/Pressed aside for the church and the mouth, sea wide,” still does not breach its small sound of expression.
While some performers are notorious for their incredible range and enthusiasm both during live shows and studio recording, I’m not sure the character Shawn Jones has created for Bury the Cynics really has it in him to shout and scream and cry and suffer. That sort of high-flying emotional pyrotechnics is reserved for other characters, Will Sheff’s Black Sheep Boy or John Darnielle’s Alpha Couple, but not for Jones and his unnamed vocal persona, this Mr. Jones. This man’s got a quiet life, one that’s certainly seen its fair share of hard times, but one that isn’t about to break his near-silence.