Ballad of the Broken Seas

Belle & Sebastian vocalist Campbell and Screaming Trees singer Lanegan decide to rendezvous in room Number 8 at the La Crescendo Motel—TV bolted to the faux knotty-pine paneling—for a collection of duets, a forbidden liaison of sorts. With an audibly noticeable chemistry, they mine—and actually improve upon—the territory of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood’s pairing of sweet and sour. Their songs, for the most part written by Campbell, are much better, also. The sparely accompanied blues-fueled material is a series of introspective conversations, wide-open spaces and call-and-response vocalizations (whiskey growl and whispered plea) of thinly veiled but highly charged sexual innuendo. Its fragmented tales of corruption and inevitability meld a Tom Waits-Leonard Cohen literate sensibility to a dark, deep-in-the-pines Gothic fatality.