REVIEW: Society of Broken Souls’ New Release Creates Intentional Dissonance


On Midnight and The Pale, their second album as the Society of Broken Souls and their fifth collaboration, the duo of multi-instrumentalists Dennis James and Lauryn Shapter create an intentional dissonance between lovely, almost crystalline melodies and creepy, disturbing lyrics. James and Shapter entirely wrote, performed and self-produced Midnight and the Pale. Each wrote and sings lead on about half the tracks on the album. James plays acoustic, electric and baritone guitar, bass, drums, auxiliary percussion, and harmonica; Shapter plays acoustic guitar, keyboards, violin, bass, banjo, and toy xylophone.

James and Shapter were “tired of the lack of authenticity we saw around us and decided to shine some light on the broken bits.” Their album takes a hard, unflinching look at the dark corners of the American psyche while taking the listener along with the artists on their journey on the “Wings of a Prayer” more than a “Hundred Miles” across the American landscape. That journey sees the artists wrestle with fickle lady “Fortuna” and “Lay to Rest the Ghost” under the “April Moon.”

Perhaps no track captures the artists’ self-described “folk noir” genre more than “Pretty,” which is almost gothic. Shapter begins by singing about how pretty girls are supposed to behave, and the song ends with protagonist addressing the audience from inside a mental institution, warning the listener not to bring to her anything made of glass. In the course of the song, the protagonist also tells the listener about her cutting. It is an eerie song, worthy of being called “noir.”

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