Rings is billed as indie-reggae, but Sean Bones is really taking more of a ska approach. It's a mix of early ska and 2-Tone era ska, rather than the more modern ska-rock. It's saturated with bouncy chanks, spooky organ riffs, and laid back bass lines. The vocals desert the ska vibe for an indie pop feel. Bones' voice is thinner than most ska singers, but he makes up for this by having some nice harmonies, sometimes reaching for a Beatlesque or ELO feel.
Merging the early ska penchant for appropriating other songs with a 2 Tone feel, Coco takes its verse straight from A Message To You Rudy, by the Specials. It's simple and poppy, although there is some interesting guitar abuse going on near the end. Bones brings in some George Harrison harmonies to fill out the sound.
One of the singles, Sugar in My Spoon, is a wonderfully tight number. It's a cross between rocksteady (the soulful vibe, the harmonies and vocal phrasing, and the funky organ riff) and 2 Tone era ska (the bubble chank going on the keys and the uptempo beat). The music is darker than some of the other songs on the disc, which adds some depth. The lyrics are fairly poppy, but the music is relentlessly driving. There's an interesting set of song sections and the ending is perfect.
This is immediately followed by Instigator, which is more firmly rocksteady. It's got a real Sly and Robbie vibe mixed with a little Wailers. The organ fills add some ska, too. There's a lot going on here, as the mood shifts through the different sections. There are also some horns sitting in, adding an English R&B feel. It's delightfully retro.
Really, there isn't a single bad song here. With hints of 2 Tone bands, some Wailers, and even the Police, it's a pleasant exploration of the ska influenced, chop beat music. I think a Juju Ginger Ale from Lefthand Brewing would be a nice accompaniment.
But wait! There's more...
As an addendum, Sean Bones has just released a new single, Rhumba Beat, which completely turns away from the ska vibe. The main part of the song is a funky indie rock exercise. With catchy bass and guitar parts. This devolves into a club beat/disco bridge, which manages to find its way back to the original groove. It's an interesting change of pace. I missed Sean Bones when he came through Colorado recently. I'll have to see him next time.