Caught in the Net: Act of musical commitment

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Ryan Gosling's musical talents have long been dormant since sharing the stage with Britney Spears and friends in the Mickey Mouse Club during his formative years; Gosling (left) has since discovered a more fruitful artistic path as an actor – his stunning Oscar nominated turn as a drug addicted teacher in 'Half Nelson' from a few years back was particularly notable. Now he's returning to music. In January the actor joined forces with Zach Shields and formed Dead Man's Bones (my mansbones). Two of their songs with videos have surfaced thus far –, Bucking the trend for half-arsed actor-based musical vanity projects, they're pretty good, sounding ghostly and dusty in the vein of Nick Cave or Tom Waits. Appropriately, the pair have signed to Anti-, the home of Mr Waits, and will release their debut album in October. "Do-wop songs about werewolves" is how Anti- describes the album, which was recorded with the help of Tim Anderson of Ima Robot, and the Silverlake Conservatory children's choir, and that sounds all right to me.

Jason's fun time

This week in actors-slash-musicians, part two: You might remember Jason Schwartzman as the drummer from Phantom Planet (who could forget the theme from 'The OC'?), or perhaps not. More likely you'll recognise him as the star of various Wes Anderson films. The actor formed Coconut Records ( coconutrecords) in 2007, and under that name he has released two albums. The second, 'Davy', landed in January. A video for one song from it, "Any Fun", has been getting notice lately. To some breezy piano balladry, the video features Schwartzman and Chloe Sevigny generally larking about. Watch it at

School of Hard Knox

James Jackson Toth trades under the name Wand. His album 'Hard Knox' was released on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label. Following Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver and the craze for "lo-fi neo folk" (or words to that effect) he might get attention. His tunes have a less pastoral feel than other noted folk stars but they are in a similar lo-fi direction and they're rather good. Hear the brooding "Arriving", at lryan, and another song at

To alternative music... and beyond

Last week's 'All Songs Considered' podcast on NPR is worth a listen for anyone with an interest in alternative/indie music (and beyond) and the record labels that have supported such music through the years. Working off the question "Do record labels matter?" it brings attention to some great record labels and some fantastic music, old and new. Listen to it at – they've pulled out all the music and streamed it on the site, too. Nice people.

Voice of Hope

Narcotic, hazy and nocturnal are the sort of words that Hope Sandoval's voice has evoked since she came to prominence with Mazzy Star. Sandoval has been largely following her own path since the late 90s. In 2001, she collaborated with My Bloody Valentine's Colm O'Ciosoig under the name Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions on the record, 'Bavarian Fruit Bread'. Now she returns, with the help of the Warm Inventions, on a new album, 'Through the Devil Softly', which will be released in September. The first track from it, "Blanchard", has just emerged – atmospheric and bluesy, it's another lovely effort from Sandoval and friends, and to top it off, we have it as a free download at