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Actors Worth Listening To

Allie Tollaksen | Thursday, October 31, 2013

We’ve all seen it before: one day an actor is on your favorite television show and the next day they’re performing some auto-tuned pop song or lo-fi indie ballad. The awkward transition actors make into music careers has happened consistently for decades, and we have come to know the questionable musical stylings of David Hasselhoff and Vanessa Hudgens alike.
Thanks to music groups like Wicked Wisdom, Jada Pinkett Smith’s awful metal band, and Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre rap career, if you can call it that, the actor-turned-musician career path is seldom taken seriously and even more rarely well-received by the public.
But though there have been a fair share of celebrity actors-turned-musicians who should have stuck to their day jobs, I’m here to insist that we give them a chance. Well, at least some of them.
Sure, I’ve done my fair share of poking fun at them. But with the release of a new album by one of my favorite musicians, a comedian-turned-folk singer, I am reminded that some worthwhile music comes from the creative minds of silver screen celebrities.
For all of you who roll your eyes at the attempts of actors in the music world, here is a list of some actors worth a listen.
“Sin Guia, No” – Juana Molina.
Juana Molina quit her career as a famous comedian in Argentina to pursue a career in folk music in 1996 and has been cranking out remarkable albums since. By using live looping techniques, simple guitar, percussion and layered vocals, she has created a unique style of experimental folk. “Sin Guia, No” is the second single off of her newest album, “Wed 21,” which was released this week.
“Pa Pa Power” – Dead Man’s Bones.
In 2009, the band Dead Man’s Bones released their first album of the same name. With songs that focused mostly on ghosts, monsters and all things spooky, as well as featuring a children’s choir in each track, “Dead Man’s Bones” was equal parts catchy and peculiar. What may be even more peculiar, however, is that one half of the band is heartthrob Ryan Gosling. Performing under the alias “Baby Goose,” he and friend Zach Shields recorded the album and played a “Halloween tour” in 2009, making Ryan Gosling somehow even cooler than he already was.
“I Could’ve Been Your Girl” – She & Him.
After hearing her sing Christmas songs in 2003’s “Elf,” we all knew Zooey Deschanel had a beautiful voice, but not enough people know that she has been collaborating with musician M. Ward and performing under the name She & Him for over five years. The duo have released four albums, including a Christmas album, so you can sing along to her version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” without Will Ferrell’s awkward interruption.
“Tested Dry” – Jena Malone and Her Bloodstains.
The “Donnie Darko” actress Jena Malone hasn’t exactly launched a music career, but she did release two songs on a seven-inch vinyl in 2007 worth noting. The two tracks feature Malone’s voice warbling along to folk guitar and are both very odd and very catchy. Though “Tested Dry” has a guitar part almost distractingly similar to Weezer’s “Undone,” it’s the better of the two tracks and makes me wish she made more music.
“When You Get To Asheville” – Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.
If you haven’t heard Steve Martin’s music yet, you are seriously missing out. Though you may not expect the legendary comedian to be a serious musician, one listen to his banjo playing and it’s clear that his talent spans far beyond comedy. Though his banjo has been part of his standup and skits for 40 years, he’s also an accomplished bluegrass musician, winning Grammys in Country and Bluegrass categories. His latest album, a collaboration with Edie Brickell, was released this year.
Contact Allie Tollaksen at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.