Modern pop rock titans Imagine Dragons’ debut album first came together as a compilation of demos for the soundtrack of the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Broadway musical. Producers quickly rejected that package, however, instead pushing the band to produce the wildly successful and eventually iconic Night Visions.
That album and the meteoric rise of the artists behind it called attention to the pathway between showtunes and rock now constantly blurring the lines between once wildly different genres. Emerging from that blurred scene is local act Matt and the Skeleton Crew, whose debut EP Odds and Ends seems to draw both from contemporary pop rock, and from the almost equally popular modern Broadway style.
Released earlier this year, the EP displays the heavier aspects of the Skeleton Crew sound through songs like “Strangers Again.” With booming drums particularly in its opening measures, it’s hard not to think of the closely miced, ribcage rattling percussion of Imagine Dragons. Then as a fuzzy riff roars to life over that beat, Matt and the Skeleton Crew offer a catchy foothold for audiences in much the same way modern guitar minded pop rockers like Wallows, the viral California band fronted by actor-turned-guitarist Dylan Minnette, do.
Those distorted riffs especially spread that rock mindset throughout many of the tracks on this EP. The opener, “A Life Without You” features a fantastic riff in its introduction that then returns later in its run-time. “New Muse,” the collection’s most experimental sounding song, weaves riffs alongside meticulously layered reverberating and otherwise affected guitar tracks.
But just as those booming drums and catchy melodies plant rock stylings firmly within this record’s DNA, frontman Matt Silverstein’s smooth vocals and dense harmonies, and the rest of the band’s incorporation of an array of strings, organs and even brass instruments, conjure an image of a full pit orchestra playing to a crowd in an ornate New York theater.
That voice is the strongest part, without fail, of every song on the EP. It immediately draws a comparison to the voices singers like Ben Platt and to the general style of smash hits soundtracks to shows like Dear Evan Hansen and Be More Chill. It particularly shines, however, when paired with itself amid layers and layers of harmonies most prominent on “A Life Without You,” and “Merry Go Round.”
Likewise, full outfits of violins, cellos, organs, and horns slowly and subtly filter through choruses and bridges across this record, allowing almost every song to arrive at a place of orchestral beauty by its final measures.
Effectively, these songs each independently reflect the spectrum of genres displayed on this record, starting with simple, guitar and drum arrangements before swelling into so much more. That’s something special in modern music. Because as much as Broadway has recently embraced elements of rock to democratize it product for a broader audience, few rock bands have done the same with the level of harmony and orchestral instrumentation best embodied by showtunes — even Imagine Dragons, big break and all.
Matt and the Skeleton Crew has crafted an album that, like some of the best, synthesizes drastically different genres into something silky smooth and beautiful in all the right ways.
~ Dakota Antelman