To hear them describe themselves, Paean (pronounced, “PAY-in”) is more of a collective than a band–a cooperative community of friends and family. The central rendezvous point seems to be the Maddocks Family Barn, just up the road from here in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It was here that the creative madness of Dave Maddocks eventually grew into a circle of talented multi-instrumentalists and other creative types, culminating in the band’s latest DIY project, Songs for Us to Sing.
Paean has definitely developed an eclectic sound; actually, it sounds a bit like Appalachian bluegrass got on the wrong bus and wound up at Woodstock. Filled with moments of intense melencholy, I guess you could also think of it as acoustic emo. But whatever you call it, it seems to work. Songs for Us to Sing strikes that difficult balance between a consistent thread on the record and diversity in the songs. In fact, I had a hard time selecting one or two songs that give a clear reflection of what the band sounds like, because each is distinct. It really is a sit-down-and-listen-to-the-whole-thing kind of record, and the songwriting and overall musicianship are both quite strong.
That said, there’s just one element to the record that made me go, “HUH?”…the lead vocals of Dave Maddocks. In the mix, the vocals sit under the music quite often, but when they come to the front, it sounds like something akin to panicked hyperventilating. I literally was asking myself, Does he MEAN to sound like that? Dave’s voice has been described as a “sad voice;” I guess that covers it. But the interesting thing is that his voice didn’t make me want to turn off the music; instead, it made me want to keep listening, if only to satisfy my curiosity. Oh, well…Bob Dylan can’t sing to save his life, and look where he wound up.
If you’re in the Denver area, Paean is celebrating its CD release at the Hi-Dive Friday night, along with Bad Weather California and Mehko and Ocean Birds. Go check ‘em out for yourself. Meanwhile, here are a couple of the tracks from the record; you can purchase the record at the band’s MySpace, if you like it. Either way…tell me what you think about the music.